Saturday, August 12, 2006

What I’m Not Able to See

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August 12, 2006

If I Were Queen of This ForestBroadArts Theatre
Wit La Bodega
Lend Me a Tenor Mt. Hood Rep
The Merry Wives of Windsor Portland Actors Ensemble
Little Women — Portland Opera’s Broadway Across America
Tartuffe Masque Alfresco
Fuddy Meers Clackamas Rep
Herringbone Arts Equity
Richard Foreman Mini-Festival Performance Works NW

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

here's my take on menopause the musical:
it doesn't seem at home in the theatre -- it's more of a dinner theatre/cabaret type vehicle; there is no plot whatever; the idea of taking popular songs and writing your own lyrics is something we used to do in school and for the office party --- while often funny, is it 105 mins of funny? the actors cannot be faulted here; they have been directed to deliver such outlandishly cartoonish characters -- the likes of which you never see anywhere -- not in film, on stage or on tv -- not even "will & grace" were this far out of the circle of humanity -- the only place you'll see characters like this is in actual cartoons. this is not a show that women should be proud of.

Anonymous said...

I found WIT painfully dull.

Listening to a self-obsessed, over-educated literature professor bitch about her cancer for two hours - this is a lot to ask from an audience. I have never rooted so hard for a protagonist to die in a play before. “Do it!” Either that or give us an intermission. I'm not sure who was in more pain - the dying character or audience (some of us).

This play reminded me of those dated jokes that hinge on a specific belief or prejudice of the listener - such as a woman can't be a doctor, or inter racial couples shouldn't marry, or a football player can't be gay etc. They work as long as the listener shares that assumed belief. Take away the belief, and you sit there in silence waiting for a punchline that never comes.

"A boy gets hit by a car, his father rushes him to the hospital, and on the operating table the doctor announces, 'I can't operate on this patient - he's my son.'"

Waa???

"Oh - I get it. The kid's mother is a doctor – a woman is a doctor. Tee hee."

In this case the assumed audience belief is DEATH IS THIS TERRIBLE, UNIMAGINABLE THING THAT IS THE END OF THE WORLD! Death be not proud - and death be not fair either! Early on, the character lets us know that she is sick and - get this - is going to die! Noooooo!!!!! If you don’t share this hysterical death complex, you may find yourself waiting (in vain) for something else to focus on in this play. Sorry.

The view of death as an evil interloper ruining the otherwise sunny parade of western civilization seems very dated. Whereas criticizing this view of death and the American desire that death would just go away somewhere (not to mention the many social and personal activities we engage in that actually hasten death) would seem to be fertile material for a play, the playwright subscribes to the mainstream view of death and cancer whole heartedly. Death just ain’t right. And cancer is death on steroids.

Not to mention the fact that cancer is like 90% human-caused – a result of our actions despoiling the planet’s air, water, and food supplies. But there is nary a hint here that cancer just might have something to do with our alienation from the world – an indicator of a society gone wrong. Instead, in the world of the play, cancer strikes out of a clear blue contextless sky – like al qaeda. Bring on the hapless victim.

I couldn't relate to this character. Sure, she is dying. It wasn't like she was 20 years old. She seemed to have no joy in her life (that's before dastardly DEATH oozed o’er the horizon), and she could think of absolutely nothing except herself. Talk about a downer (but for a different reason than playwright intended). Uh, sweetheart, death is a pretty common affliction all over the world.

The criticisms of the US hospital system, while sound, also seem incredibly dated and obvious. They betray the old fundamental faith in science and technology to make things better. Another obvious point – death with dignity does not happen in the context of a corporate for profit heath care system – is nowhere to be found in this play. Our incredibly brilliant literary critic was somehow not smart enough to figure out not to go to the hospital to die – instead die at home. I guess what I am saying is that I see most of what she rages against in the play as self-created straw men – not the cosmic BIG ISSUES.

Also – all this pretentious bologna about John Donne? Please. Projecting couplets up on a screen? Seems to betray a fundamental misunderstanding about the difference between writing for the page and stage.

To me the main problem here was the play itself, though the production had a LOT of dead air. Could this have been speeded up at all? Chris Graham was a welcome ray of light. I remember him as brilliantly funny in DOG OPERA, and he injected desperately needed energy and (dare I say) wit every time he came onstage.

The maudlin thrashing around in the bed at end was embarrassing, and the volume, tone and frenetic action of final moments (“Oh my god – she is dying! Code red!”) seemed totally out of synch with the flat line, monotone of emotion in the rest of the action. Instead of punctuating a key moment in the play, it made me wish something had happened about an hour ago.

Otto said...

I have not seen it yet but i hear Kirk Mouser is really good in Mt Hood's "Lend Me a Tenor."

Anonymous said...

Um...you mean she dies at the end?

Patrick said...

Regarding Lend Me a Tenor:

A friend of mine who saw it the same night I did said it best - "This play is like a four-alarm fire." I have to agree. Insanely funny, well performed, exquisitely timed. This is just a bloody good time in the theatre. Only one more weekend!

Anonymous said...

HERRINGBONE

Arts Equity Inc.
The Main Street Theatre
Vancouver, WA

This is a unique experience. I'm not sure how to describe it. It was...funny, menacing, weird, disturbing. I liked it.

It is a one person musical featuring Taylor Askman, who I believe is 22. He transforms himself into about 8 different characters as we follow the story of a boy from Alabama circa 1929 who heads to Hollywood to strike it rich after becoming possessed by the spirit of a menacing vaudeville spirit named Lou. And that is simplifying the tale quite a bit...

Arts Equity has some exciting stuff coming up this season. I liked the feel of the place. This show convinced me to come back for the next one.

If you are voyaging of the beaten path, check it out!

Show runs about 2 hours.

David said...

I liked WIT a lot. Yes, it had pacing problems, and some awkward moments. It also had intelligence and a lively appreciation for the myriad ways that people alienate themselves from each other and the world. For me, the play wasn't about death. It was about death as an alienating experience in the context of an alienating medical environment or at the end of a life miss spent.

The cast was also quite strong, especially Chris and Aislinn.

Aislinn said...

Thank you, David. I think that Wit is a powerful play, and not just because I was in it. Actually, after my first read through my main concern was that it would drag for some people. It's very heady and the lead had a difficult job of making such literary speech interesting. I think she did an amazing job. It's too much for some people, obviously, and that's okay and expected. But for many people who came to the show, it was very powerful for them, sometimes overwhelmingly so. Just goes to show: to each their own.

And, ahem, to the anonymous commenter above, it's code blue.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous 12:54: I think Aislinn owes you thanks as well, not to just the people she agrees with. You at least provided a grounded and in-depth assesment of the play (and to a lesser degree, the show).

Now as far as La Bodega itself goes, any company that is going to put "Portland's Newest Kick-Ass Theatre Company" on its home page had damn well better have a HUGE sense of humor about itself and its name ("the warehouse" according to AltaVista), or back it up with kick-ass productions. Or maybe there's some irony I'm missing.

Anonymous said...

LEND ME A TENOR

This is indeed a four alarm fire. At times I wished the volume would soften just a wee bit.

As far as Kirk's energy goes:

"I'll have what he had."

Wow.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the production of Wit...but, ART did it about 6 years ago and Joann Johnson was stellar. I just couldnt go back and see it after seeing the ART version. I am a huge fan of Joann and seeing someone else playing the role..well, I just couldn't do it.

jeff said...

Anon 9:07: would you have seen it if it was free to you?

-j

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous person above who wrote the diatribe about wit--I think it's ironic that you start off complaining about pretentious and self-obsessed then proceeded to go on the most pretentious and self-important tirade I've seen in some time...The play is not about Death as an "evil interloper"--- you missed the point entirely and it's not about a fear of death as much as it is about appreciating your life while it is still viable cuz ya never know...

Anyway the show did have some pacing issues and was a little flat but it also had that uncomfortable documentary feel to it...simply stated I like it.

Anonymous said...

Merry Wives of Windsor is not to be missed. It's fun and funny and it's free! The pacing is good, the performances are good (and you can hear them). Not to be missed.

qk said...

Walked out of LITTLE WOMEN at intermission. Adaptation of the script, acting, music just bad bad bad.
And I wish I could see the MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR!

Anonymous said...

If you cannot make it to a 3pm weekend performance of MERRY WIVES, you can catch the special holiday closing performance Monday Sept 4, Labor Day, at 3pm on the front lawn of Reed College. Well, that's all depending on if you have Labor Day off and you aren't going out of town. Barbecue up a great lunch, then head out with dessert and watch some Shakespeare with the fam.

tg said...

On Herringbone:
The transitions between characters are pretty amazing. And, as reported above, parts of the subject matter are rather disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Merry Wives of Windsor was fun, albeit a bit long. But very, very good performances.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone check out the Sketch Fest at ART? I was out of town. I've been to it in years past and had a blast.

Anonymous said...

Lend Me a Tenor...what? If over the top ridiculous portrayal equals energy then yup he's got it-- NO ONE has stage fright by jerking all over the place like a jumping bean--absurd--- even farce must be grounded in reality this gentlemen's performance was not even close. It is the difference between "showing" and "being" an actor must truly be frightened (if that's what the moment calls for) not show us what he thinks frightened is...it is always more engaging to see real moments and realizations on the stage...that's why acting for an audience is truly a risk...so kudos to the attempts but this one fell way too short.

Penney said...

What is the fascination with Richard Foreman anyway?

Anonymous said...

Um...maybe that he's a weird genius.

Follow Spot said...

And I thought I was the guy who saw the most theater ... (well, maybe now I am):

Boling, Alone
Seattle's Most Faithful Theatergoer Finds His Exit