Friday, Jun 23, 2017

Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Acebo’

The Imaginary Invalid (2011)

The Imaginary Invalid has a hell of a pedigree to live up to. The play, originally by Moliere, has been adapted for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this year by Oded Gross and Tracy Young, the same pair that adpated Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters in 2009. Likewise the play is directed by Tracy Young, as in ’09. And as the director points out in the program notes, she has drawn heavily on her own expertise (once again) in commedia dell’arte to guide this production. With so many similarities, and with Servant being such a fond memory for this reviewer, the question becomes inescapable: is Invalid just as good?

To answer, I must crib from another ’09 production and “equivocate” just a bit (ha ha ho ho, I am a wit…): yes and no. Moliere’s original work has far more of a point to it than Goldoni’s does, and likewise this adaptation finds itself more grounded, perhaps more nuanced… which is a fine quality in and of itself but not exactly in sync with the farcical tone that permeates the show for most of its duration.

Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (2010)

Photo by Jenny Graham

Photo by Jenny Graham

You know you’ve seen something special when Company members are snuffling emotionally in the row behind you. The stereotype of comedians is for them to nod at another comedian’s act and say “that was funny” without actually laughing. I’ve seen actors leave a powerful, moving show giving high fives and chatting excitedly about the performances. So, the fact that the cast of this year’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof got to their fellow actors should tell you a lot.

The play is largely a character-driven piece – there’s a plot, but the external story doesn’t actually move much and the play is essentially in real-time. Maggie (a sublime Stephanie Beatriz) comes from a hard-scrabble childhood but is now married to Brick (the what’s-left-to-say Danforth Comins), a drunken, washed-up athlete who has forsworn a budding career as a television sports announcer in favor of the bottle; Brick is the favorite son of a wealthy plantation owner who may or may not be dying soon. The action, then, revolves around the machinations of Big Daddy’s sons (Brick and his brother Gooper, the latter played with quiet frustration by Rex Young) and their wives (Maggie and Mae, respectively, the latter played by Kate Mulligan with scene-stealing brio) to secure the prime inheritance share from their father. When they aren’t digging at each other, they mostly turn on themselves.

All’s Well That Ends Well (2009)

Photo by Jenny Graham

Photo by Jenny Graham

My default position towards All’s Well That Ends Well is “Eeeugh.” The play isn’t written for modern sensibilities, true, but I can’t help the disgust I feel towards the treatment of Helena and, worse, her willingness to shoulder the appalling burden that Bertram places upon her. When Diana is describing Bertram’s wooing (to Helena!) I just want to slug him.

The fact that I was crying at the Epilogue is thus a testament to the miracle I saw in the New Theatre today.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone (2009)

Photo by Jenny Graham

Photo by Jenny Graham

Can a man fall in love with a theater? There’s nothing wrong with the Angus Bowmer or the Elizabethan, but man I’ve been enjoying the New Theatre for the last few years now. The latest treat is Dead Man’s Cell Phone, a new-ish play by Sarah Ruhl. The play itself is good, but the company does such a great job of executing the production that it is elevated to a truly special place.

The Clay Cart (2008)

I saw The Clay Cart at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival the same weekend as the plays in my first batch of reviews – the week leading up to July 4th. The fact that I’m just now finding the momentum to post this is probably a review all by itself, but the truth is more complicated than that. Reading just a little bit between the lines, I think it’s clear that The Clay Cart is meant to be Bill Rauch’s “signature play” for the season: “this is how things work on my watch.” I don’t think he’s trying to disparage Libby Appel’s work, he’s just making his mark; new kid in school and all that. The marketing material for members is fronted with a picture from the production, as is this year’s Illuminations. When L. and I bought the tickets last year we were excited, since Mr. Rauch had just knocked our socks off with his Romeo and Juliet.

Even my pre-play anticipation was stoked. The set by Christopher Acebo is gorgeous: a round stage with couches surround about 2/3rds of it in a way that makes the audience the last 1/3rd of a complete circle, including us in the company; beautiful lanterns are suspended over the stage and out into the audience… it was wonderful. When the company enters, they trickle in, bowing their way into the circle, and sing an invocational hymn. Yay! I’m ready to be awesomed.

And then the play starts. I have only three problems with it.