Saturday, December 23, 2006

And Then There Were None

Northwest Classical Theatre Co.
Posted by Followspot December 23, 2006; closes January 14, 2007

A bit cramped, sometimes dry, occasionally fuddy, though not without some successful moments, especially in second act. Like Children's Hour, outdated artifice begs creative re-invention of suspense genre to (re)direct more engaging tension. Balanced cast ready to be taken to next level. Beautiful floor, effective lighting by candles, attractive wardrobe.


hr said...


David Loftus said...

I think that's in "fuddy-duddy," but I'm guessing the second half had to be cut to meet the 50-word limit. (Don't think it relates to Elmer....) Anyway, given the creaky and sometimes implausible Christie plotting, this is a sweet show. Most consistent level of acting I've seen over several NWCT productions, spare but gorgeous set (probably also the best ever), and director Bibi Walton keeps things moving along swiftly and lightly. A few folks had trouble with their accents, and once or twice I felt they were leaning a little TOO heavily on the intimacy of the space (too quiet for me to hear in the front row), but for the most part, a delightful evening. Sometimes you don't feel like being cerebrally and emotionally walloped by a show: this is a good prescription for that. Nice writeup in the Mercury, guys, even if Hallett said she couldn't tell how much of the humor was intended (seemed to me the show was clearly meant to be fun for everyone on- and off-stage).

Follow Spot said...

Well, if hyphenated, I belive "fuddy-duddy" woulda came in as one-word in my spell-checker ... and, no, it doesn't refer to Elmer ... it just seemed more "fuddy" than "fuddy-duddy" -- as in, perhaps, it wasn't a dud at all, but maybe quaint ... The question, then, is -- was vintage quaint the intent? or simply the result of creaky Christie in 2007? Since thrillers are so difficult to stage with any veracity, perhaps vintage/quaint is the right direction.

Anonymous said...

I'm also curious about the comment "Balanced cast ready to be taken to next level" . . . what does it mean here, and is there an unfair assumption that everyone in the case would WANT to be taken to the next level?

Would "the next level" be a different, better, more professional show at NWCTC? Or moving on to another theater altogether?

My point in the case of the possible assumption is that NWCTC tends to have particularly mixed lineups in their casts: brand newbies trying out the water, somewhat more experienced and ambitious young 'uns who probably best fit the paradigm above, longtime Portland stage vets having a bit of relaxed fun, and even a few pros retired from stage and film careers far from here who -- one might suggest -- are doing precisely what they want to, right there, right now.

This diversity belies an assumption I've seen in other followspot threads, where some folks appear to believe everybody in Portland theater is -- or should be -- striving to be more serious, more cutting edge, more dangerous, more ambitious with every single project. But is that necessary or desirable where EVERYONE is concerned?

Follow Spot said...

My point with that comment was really that although sometimes the NWCTC casts are a real mix of folks at different levels, as you indicate, this particular cast were all working evenly (a good thing), and all seemed to have something more yet untapped. All I'm saying is I think everything - as balanced as it was - could have easily been taken up a notch, which ultimately is a reflection of the direction. So the next level wouldn't be another theatre or a more professional show, but rather a smarter telling of the tale.

And, personally, I do believe that striving to stretch and improve and hone our work is always desirable if we are to continue to grow as artists. That's not to say one can't choose to just do what one wants -- Portland theatre has plenty of folks who do -- but how many pet rocks can one create? (Actually, a better example to me is if you are a regular attendee of the ceramics showcase ... and you go back year after year to see the same artists doing the same thing -- yes, another set of teapots with human features -- which may be enjoyable and rewarding to the artist [or the artist's bread-and-butter], but fails to touch me as a viewer.)

So the question I would toss back to you is: What's the artist's goal or objective? If we're all doing this just to have fun, solely as recreation with no higher purpose, then artistic criicism (especially the type that Dan advocates) really doesn't matter much. But if we're in this because we believe that good theatre truly offers us more than just entertainment, then I think there's also an obligation on the part of the artist to continue to push and pull his/her audience to new places.

Or, at least, those are my uncaffeinated 8 am ramblings ...

David Loftus said...

Thanks for the clarification -- makes a lot of sense. I'm just sorry your blog host doesn't seem to highlight new posts to older review threads in the listing of "comments on the most recent posts" on the Home page. As a result, a lot of people will likely miss this.

The hottest, newest comments are not inevitably going to be the most thoughtful or useful.

As for your question, I imagine most actors and theaters are striving to be better, so it's a mistake to phrase the question as
"If we're all doing this just to have fun..." -- and that was the point of my previous post: perhaps we're not ALL doing it to stretch, every time, though most posts to Followspot seem to take that for granted. If so, that may match up to a portion of the theater-going audience that does not necessarily want to stretch its mind or values every time it goes to see a play. After all, the most successful TV shows are not always the most innovative, either.

What occasionally bothers me is that posters to followspot will apply standards most appropriate to one or two theaters to every other one as well. I don't expect the same things of every theater, and I don't go to every show expecting a transcendant or mind-blowing experience, any more than I expect the food at Carl's Junior to measure up to that at the Heathman.