Boling's recommendations among eight pieces seen the week of 7 November 2005.
Friday 11 November 2005: Ravenscroft,
Mercer Island Players at the Youth Theatre Northwest Studio
Here is a Don Nigro script that I had not seen, so I juggled some shows to get this into the calendar. Itís a neat little who-done-it pitting five women against the police inspector who is investigating the suspicious death of the estate handyman. The women are the recent widow of the owner, her daughter, the daughterís governess, the housekeeper, and a maid. There is a lot of exposition early on, but as each womanís story comes out, the plot develops nicely. Checkmarks to Dave Tucker as the inspector, Jane Martin as the widow, and Yvette Zaepfel as the maid. Honorable mention to Jillian Ratliffe as the daughter. Adrienne Easton and Dana Rice are the governess and the housekeeper. Michelle Patrick directed.
Saturday 12 November 2005: Lonely Planet,
Absurd Reality Theatre at NW Actors Studio (main space)
This is a Stephen Dietz script I had not seen, so into the calendar it went. When I mentioned to an acquaintance that I had seen it earlier Saturday, she commented on how dark it is - and how. Here is a two-hander about friendship and isolation in the age of AIDS (which is never mentioned explicitly). Jody (Nathan Hicks, who also directed) either owns or manages a map store. Carl (Brandon Ryan) is a "nut case" friend whose shenanigans are barely tolerable. Carl has no visible means of support and is a congenital liar; he also is a hoarder, and Jody's store is his storage locker. Jody is insecure and lonely. Their co-dependency is the subject of the piece. Checkmarks to Hicks for acting and direction, and double checks to Ryan, whose rants will make your hair stand on end. If you have not seen this piece, you have one more week to add it to your life experience. Best of the week.
Sunday 13 November 2005: The Grapes of Wrath
I had never seen this Frank Galati adaptation of Steinbeck's classic. A cast of twenty-five (playing about forty roles) brings life to a succession of stark scenes, designed by Carey Wong. In addition to the dust bowl, transient camps, and a lovely vintage truck, we get the Colorado River, drenching rain, and a river in flood (all of the latter with gallons of wet stuff). The story of the Joad family and the ex-preacher who accompanies them on their trek is a legendary tale of exploited and visionary humanity. Checkmarks to Linda Hartzell for direction, Todd Jefferson Moore (the preacher), and to Erick Kastel, Patrick Husted, and Beth Dixon (Tom, Pa, and Ma Joad). Honorable mentions to Laurence Ballard and Shawn Telford in multiple supporting roles. Extended to 19 November.
Sunday 13 November 2005: The Screwtape Letters,
The Attic Theatre (multiple venues)
Here is yet another piece I had never seen (in this case, a US premiere) - Nigel Forde's adaptation of C S Lewis's letters instructing a junior devil in the black arts of temptation. It's a mentally stimulating piece, in that Lewis deals with some significant philosophical issues and the material flies by so quickly that pause and rewind buttons are needed. But to keep the piece from creating brain cramps, Forde has given us a charming through story about a young man torn between duty and laziness at the beginning of WWII in London, and the machinations of a handful of Satan's minions whose task is to ensure that the Subject's soul goes south.
The Attic is taking this piece to several church halls (see http://www.theattictheatre.org/calendar.htm
for the schedule - for some reason, they have listed each venue individually on SeattlePerforms.com). In tonight's venue some of the lines disappeared amid accents and acoustics (another reason to wish for a rewind capability), but the story survived. Checkmarks to Mark Reinhardt as Chief Minion Screwtape and to Jeffrey Stephens as Screwtape's "Subject"; honorable mentions to Jim Oestreich as Sub-Minion Wormwood and to Donna Austin as Subject's lady love. Six other players and a voice complete the cast. This piece requires some intellectual investment; it's worth the effort. I wish Louise were here to see it.