Archive for March 2015

“The Long Road” and “Nine” Two One-Acters Produced by Arouet

Arouet’s production of “The Long Road” and “Nine” proves you don’t need a fancy stage, a brilliant set, or an elegant theatre to produce astonishingly powerful plays. In the small and somewhat grungy Eclectic Theatre, they’ve provided a theatre experience that seizes your emotions, challenges your world view, and will haunt you for some time.

Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

Jared Holloway-Thomas, John Murray, and Eleanor Moseley photo by Michael Brunk

In “The Long Road” a drug addled teenage girl knifes and kills an 18-year-old boy who brushed off her request for money. Here the playwright Shelagh Stephenson examines the impact of this random act of violence on the victim’s family and on the drugged-out misfit who killed the young man. The play was written in collaboration with the United Kingdom-based charity, “The Forgiveness Project.”

The boy’s death threatens to tear the family apart, destroy their sanity. Mother, father and brother each has his or her own coping mechanisms, none terribly successful. Mother, recognizing that the killer has become a malignant presence in their lives and much against the wishes of her remaining family, decides to meet the murderer. The hateful girl is detestable, but the mother persists with her visits to the jail, and hatred turns to pity, and from pity and understanding comes forgiveness.

Here, powerful material is combined with superb acting. I ached for the parents (John Murray and Eleanor Moseley) whose pain was palpable, whose confusion about what had happened to their lives and whose anguished efforts to cope were heartbreaking. Jared Holloway-Thomas as the brother left behind brilliantly captures his confusion, his sense that his parents preferred his brother but they were left with him.

Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

Kate Witt and Abigail Grimstad photo by Michael Brunk

Abigail Grimstad, the murderer, is vile. Watch her face and body language and you see a totally despicable individual and then be amazed as you grow to feel sorry for her, to pity her. The final cast member Kate Witt as the intervening social worker knows just when to intercede, just when to step back. High praise goes to the director Zandi Carlson.

Accompanying this wondrous piece is “Nine,” written by Jane Shepard and directed by Paul Budraitis. It’s a two woman Kafkaesque look at brutality, fear, captivity, and the power of human communication to maintain life. Colleen Carey and Cynthia Geary are powerful as two imprisoned and tortured victims.

I have to wonder why it was decided to pair these two one act plays. “The Long Road is so much more accessible and gut wrenching. It alone would have been a great night in the theatre.

Through March 14 at Eclectic Theatre, 1214 10th Ave., Seattle, (425 298-3852 or arouet.us)

“Seven Ways to Get There” an ACT Lab Production

7WaysRun_0438 trust fallGroup therapy! Here a female therapist meets with seven men, gathered to gain insights, improve social skills, and learn to control deleterious behavior. But what a group of men it is, and that’s the great success of this play.

These are not men who would have anything to do with one another outside the therapeutic setting. One’s a genuine nut case; another is a psychopath. There’s an artist who thinks he’s failing and a sweet man who just can’t make decisions. More than one of them has significant sexual issues, and another is a very wealthy, take-charge guy who wonders what he’s doing there.

You couldn’t easily find a more disparate group, yet bonds develop, compassion grows, and for most of the men the experience is positive. But don’t believe that “getting there is half the fun.” Getting there is painful, explosive, heartbreaking, and, believe it or not, hilarious.

Playwrights Bryan Willis and Dwayne Clark have loaded the script with ludicrous situations and strange-but-true characters. Director John Langs makes sure that every drop of humor is wrung from the script, yet never lets you forget the poignancy of the lives of these men.

Kirsten Potter as the lovely therapist controls this unlikely group with a sure hand most of the time. The interplay of the seven male actors is well orchestrated, and each one exhibits his issues with a powerful realism.

The plot gets a little strained in the second act. First the therapist and one of the group get a little too cozy. Then there’s mayhem that’s a bit contrived. But overall, the fine acting and the clever script make this a good night at the theatre.

Through March 15, The Allen Theatre, ACT, 700 Union St., Seattle, (206 292-7676 or acttheatre.org).