Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sometimes a Great Notion


PCS
April 1 - May 11, 2008 (extended)

Review by peanutduck

Brothers’ relationship, tangled with love, resentment, admiration, affects through well-structured dialogue interwoven with asides, choral accompaniment. Scenes with disgruntled logging community - The Six (among Portland’s best) – suffer from overly expository writing, static direction. Language, movement, lighting at times beautiful. Worth the hype? Still too uneven; another draft should tell.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Overall a satisfying evening of theater with great performances. The lighting and sound design were outstanding and critical to the telling of the story. A bit too much talking to the audience, I prefer the fourth wall to stay intact. I was transported often enough to be genuinely moved.

Anonymous said...

Very little here believable or interesting. Much of the top register intensity and shouting comes out as funny, with the audience chuckling or puzzled.

SAGN as parody? Felt close at times. Some of the cast seemed ready to burst into laughter. How else could you respond to the endless "By gum, he's tough as a..." comparisons? It's just very silly stuff.

If all the men had thrown on red checkered dresses and started line dancing in their caulks, it would not have been at odds with the tone one bit.

Freed of asides and greek chorus discussions, the straight logging scenes and group conflicts in the woods ("Hang on a second now boys. Are you saying you want me not to give all my hard won timber to the big bad corporation?") were pure WAITING FOR GUFFMAN. Melodrama, and more effective as comedy.

Aside from questions about how good the book is and how faithful the play is to it, judged on its own, the play is a simple story with lots of hopped up atmosphere and an undecided narrative style.

The central setup - Hank's a knuckle-dragging neanderthal, brother Leland's a bookish Yale man - seems impossibly artificial and contrived. The brothers have never been in a phsyical, knock down drag out fight before? Are you kidding me? Any guys out there grow up with a brother?

All the exaggerated stances and bluster serve to isolate us from finding out who these people are.

The exposition-heavy dialogue, probably necessary if those who have not read the book are to keep up, was awkward. And somehow a lot of the local aspects felt painted on as an afterthought. Jokes about the weather, mispronounce the state name etc. Maybe because it was hard to believe the story, it was hard to believe it was happening here.

Jo Ben is too cherubic to hold his own in this den of titanic hard men. Vivian also seems way too soft and groovy for her environment. Henry's "I'm an old coot" schtick gets old faster than a log washes down a spring creek in flood.

The real star here is the set and lighting, which are fabulous. A few still life moments of characters silhouetted against the brooding trees pack more mystery, promise, and drama than the entire play. The ghostly forest itself far upstages anything the humans can do.

Maybe that was Kesey's point.

Anonymous said...

This is one tough novel to try to dramatize in two hours. I applaud the attempt (saw the pay-what-you-will Sunday preview on the 30th). While I felt some of the key scenes did not quite come off, and had difficulties with the Greek chorus concept (charming though it was, much of the time), I think the lengthy anonymous critique was a bit overdone, as well.


> The central setup - Hank's a
> knuckle-dragging neanderthal,
> brother Leland's a bookish Yale
> man - seems impossibly
> artificial and contrived.

I did not find it so. But then, I grew up in a coastal Oregon timber town. You overstate the characterization of both men -- Hank had some terrifically thoughtful moments in this show, and Lee was not only bookish but shared a fierce competitiveness with his brother as well as a thirst for revenge.


> The brothers have never been in
> a phsyical, knock down drag out
> fight before? Are you kidding
> me? Any guys out there grow up
> with a brother?

Yes, I had two. The nearest one to me was five years away, and I simply treated him as too inferior to bother with, while we were growing up. The age difference between Hank and Lee was -- what? -- something like 12 years? And wasn't Lee was sent off to an Eastern boarding school before he even got comfortably into his teens. How, let alone why, would Hank even consider fighting him?


> All the exaggerated stances and
> bluster serve to isolate us from
> finding out who these people are.

Not me. But then, I grew up among people like Hank and went to school with people like Lee. And I read the book twice, which may give me an unfair advantage.


> Jo Ben is too cherubic to hold
> his own in this den of titanic
> hard men.

Again, I know people like this. They're hard underneath, but ever-optimistic on the surface. Again, check the book, and also see whether this characterization differs that much from that of Richard Jaeckel in the so-so movie of the novel.

Anonymous said...

> The real star here is the set and lighting, which are fabulous.
> A few still life moments of characters silhouetted against the brooding trees pack more mystery,
> promise, and drama than the entire play. The ghostly forest
> itself far upstages anything the humans can do.

The lighting and sound were nearly perfect. The set, on the other hand, was a bit disappointing. I would prefer to have the house and the forest as two different sets. Sure, that's really hard to do, and it leaves open the question of the town and the river. But it just seemed a bit skimpy to have everything done on one set, no matter how interesting it was visually.

I disagree with almost everything said previously about the characters. Hank was amazing, and should stay with the show should it tour, as should Henry who was an awesome force on stage. Leland was maybe a bit too Yale for an Oregon boy, but a great combination of outward calm and inward passion. Joby was the iconic optimist and true believer, and well played.

Yes, jokes about rain are rather lame, but everyone who grows up here has told them anyway. There was nothing close to parody in this production and it reveals the overstated criticism in your review. The greek chorus was near genius and is the right solution to the very difficult problem of getting this story onto the stage.

A little fixing up and this show is ready for the road. They would love it in London.

anomalight said...

The lighting (was)...nearly perfect...I would prefer to have the house and the forest as two different sets.

The other big location was the bar/tavern; did that need its own set too?

I was annoyed by the lighting and the attempt at specificity, with which if it had been done more distinctly, could have eliminated the feeling of needing a separate set (which I disagree with). The bar scenes tried to have mood with red and amber accents, but the general wash killed all but the shadows. And the bedroom of the house looked creepy at times.

I did like the layering and depth of the opening scene (and others) by popping out the six one-at-a-time while leaving the others in the mottling. And the drowning scene was very cleverly lit and staged.

-j

Anonymous said...

that guy who played leland is a f**ing genious