Archive for August 2012

“The Illusion” Sound Theatre Company’s Production at Center Theatre

What in this world is real and what is not real? What is love? What is it that makes family relationships so difficult? These are questions that Tony Kushner the adaptor and Pierre Corneille the 17th C. writer put forward in this Baroque fairy tale about a repentant father seeking the son he disowned long years ago. To find that son, he visits the magician, Alcandre in her underground cave.

To me, Corneille’s play is ho-hum, but Kushner’s language has its own beauty. And in this production it is spoken within a magical set, superbly lit, and visually enchanting. The stage is an imaginative grotto where erosion has carved the cleverly designed “rock” walls, creating passages, platforms and openings. As the action takes place, those openings become windows to the real world, showing sylvan greenswards, castles, and even a magnificent planet earth rising over the moon. And through those openings and a cloud of fog appear key players, including the banished son. Spooky opening music, wonderful set, and lush costumes all speak to the talents of Director Teresa Thuman and her production staff.

Among the actors, special praise goes to Hannah Mootz in her roles as maidservant and anguished lover. She’s tart, mischievous, love sick; she’s a dutiful servant as well as a conniving one. She’s a total delight to watch as she manipulates those who are her superiors.

The other cast standout is Frank Lawler. Oh what a fabulous fop, what a dopey dandy he is with his kewpie-doll mouth paint and velvet coat. He steals the stage whenever he’s on it. The only disappointment among the actors is Eva M. Abram who overplays her role as the magician/sorcerer  conjuring up episodes from the lost son’s past.

Sadly, the beautiful staging and generally good acting don’t overcome the weaknesses of the play. Corneille once called it, “an extravagant trifle.” That’s still an accurate description.

Through August 26, Center Theatre at the Armory in Seattle Center, (www.brownpapertickets.com/event/257760 or 1 800 838-3006)

“No Man’s Land” at ACT

And so we come to the final play in ACT’s Pinter festival. “No Man’s Land” skillfully directed by Penelope Cherns, is a play even more confounding than “Old Times.” But once again, don’t ask what it means. Soak in it. Let the biting humor seep in. Let it pour over you. Experience it and enjoy the poetry of the language as well as the fine acting of this production, then ruminate afterwards.

This play, too, takes place in a house in the country, this, though, is quite an elegant house, home of Hirst, a successful writer (Frank Corrado). Pinter who is always precise in depicting the nuances of English class structure has two men of distinctly lower class (Peter Crook and Benjamin Harris) serve, and perhaps service, him.

Hirst has brought a visitor home from the pub, Spooner a failed poet, played by Randy Moore. Their drunken, somewhat absurd encounter makes up the play. Again memory is fickle. What’s supposedly the past can or cannot be true. “As it is?” asks Hirst when offering his guest a drink. And these words might serve as slogan for the entire play. What exactly is as it is?

Randy Moore plays Spooner as a sad little man, more vulnerable, less heartless than John Gielgud played the role in the original 1974 production (a video version is available on Google). The portrayal makes him more pitiable. Corrado’s Hirst is a strong man broken. Both are trapped in no man’s land. “Will nothing change forever?” Perhaps, thought Pinter, that’s the fate for all of us.

We who love the theatre owe a debt of gratitude to ACT for offering us four Pinter plays in this summer festival. Few cities have the wealth of acting and production talent to pull it off or the theatre management willing to take the risk on works that are too often regarded as box office poison. There’s only one week left of this rich assemblage of plays. If you love theatre, you shouldn’t miss all or part of the experience.

Through August 26 at ACT, 700 Union Street, Seattle, (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org).

“Old Times” by Harold Pinter

It’s not often that you go to a theatrical production, can’t figure out what the play means, and yet adore the experience, knowing that it won’t soon leave you, that you will think about it, puzzle it out, and be rewarded by it long after the lights go out and the cast takes their bows. That’s what it’s like to attend a Pinter play. He presents his audience with a situation. Much about it appears to be bizarre, almost unfathomable. But it’s compelling, it’s speaking to you on some deep level, and, if it’s well produced, it’s theatre at its best.

Director Victor Pappas’s “Old Times” at ACT is such a production. Three excellent actors ideally costumed for their roles play memory games with one another as we the audience laugh at the subtle humor, puzzle over their relationship, and admire the rhythmic flow of words and action. Through their jousts, their silences, their languid or somewhat vexed movements, through their frustrations and their puzzlement, we sense something universal yet very personal.

The beautiful Cheyenne Casebier as the restrained Kate and her handsome husband Deeley (Jeffrey Fracé) wait in their contemporary home by the sea for a visit from Kate’s old friend Anna (the steely Anne Allgood). Anna’s actually already there, but only we, the audience members, know it.

She may be the only friend Kate has ever had. She may be a woman Deeley knows from the past. Maybe she’s Kate’s former lesbian lover. Or is she simply another aspect of Kate’s persona. Any of those could be possible, maybe more than one.

It doesn’t really matter exactly where the truth lies. There are many truths, in all lives, in all societies. Pinter helps us see these ambiguities and absurdities. And in this play ACT certainly captures Pinter’s richness.

Through Aug. 25 at ACT, 700 Union St., Seattle (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org)