I saw immediate theater project's production of
Copenhagen at the BeBe Theater last Saturday night.
We expected (after itp's absolutely brilliant All
My Sons) it to be good, and were right. Copenhagen
was almost as shattering as All My Sons, but in a
different way. It is extremely talky -- just three
people talking and talking, on stage all the time --
but very moving.
All three actors were excellent. Kay Galvin is always
wonderful; we hadn't seen the other two before. They
seemed just right -- Lance Ball as the nervy Heisenberg
and Earl Leininger as the "good man", the fatherly Bohr.
Really there wasn't much to fault in the whole production
-- a couple of tiny and unimportant stumbles over lines
is all I can come up with if I think really hard.
The play is suitable, even edifying, for adults and
high school students. It's about... Life and
theoretical physics? History? Subjectivity? Lots of
interesting things on lots of levels. Overtly it's
about a meeting between Bohr and Heisenberg in Copenhagen
during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. (There's also a
lot of interesting history -- like the amazing escape
of most of Denmark's Jews, and the fact that several of
the guys who came up with the Bomb were Jews who had fled
Michael Frayn (the playwright) is quite a guy -- to have
had the understanding of the very counter-intuitive concepts
of theoretical physics that he must have had to have written
the play -- and somehow applied them to life -- is impressive.
(And then he becomes a Brueghel expert for his excellent
So don't miss it -- Copenhagen ends this weekend, on the 30th.
itp's doing some other interesting things over the next year --
check out their website.
27 September 2007
I saw immediate theater project's production of
The latest edition to North Carolina Stage Company’s Catalyst Series is a piece written and directed by local poet, playwright and performer John Crutchfield, “Twelve Treatises on Memory: An Epistemological Slapstick (With Sock Puppets), presented by Jynormous Theatre Company.
Unlike many play-goers in this community, I am not someone convinced that anything written by a local playwright is good theatre (I can type you up a short list, if you‘d like to argue this). You can tell in the first five minutes of the play that Crutchfield is no hack, tinkering about with playwriting in his spare time. The scenes are nicely laid out, the characters are interesting, and the lines are nothing short of eloquent.
In fact, that is what impressed me most about the play. Some of the writing in this show is the prettiest I’ve heard since I saw “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at NCStage earlier this summer. The succinct timing and pace of the funny parts leave the audience in stitches. The drama is also valid and easy to sympathize with.
The acting is also spot-on. The portrayal of two childhood sweethearts, reunited for one night of reminiscing and questioning past decisions, by Joe Sturgeon and Anne-Marie Welty is truly compelling. Both actors express a clear knowledge of their character’s intention and personality.
My problem with the show, however, is a big one… the subject matter.
You know that angry poem, or scene, or narrative that you wrote back in high school or college about a time when someone unjustifiably jilted you, which you never got full closure from. We all have one. They are always a little melodramatic because the pain we feel is so raw and authentic (usually because it is being felt for the first time). Still, in perspective, being dumped is not that big of a deal and not necessarily a worthy premise for a dramatic play.
I don’t mean to downplay it. Lots of great plays are based around the ins and outs of love. This play entirely rests on the connection between a slightly geeky guy named Mark (Sturgeon) who is somewhat stuck in the past and his former flame Beth (Welty), who is kind of cocky and enjoying that she still has the power to make Mark swoon. The two spend a night together, talking in circles around how dynamic the love they shared was and why it ultimately ended.
Creating a good “Why did you break up with me?” play is already a challenge. Having a man be both writer and director of a breakup play in which the man is more or less the good-natured victim and the woman is semi-manipulative, arrogant, cold and constantly in-control doesn’t help the play’s credibility either.
To cool down the laden bitterness that is apparent throughout “Twelve Treatises,” Crutchfield introduces two sock puppet scenes, where the two actors get behind the couch they had been sitting on in the previous scene, swap gender roles, and basically re-do the dialogue from the point of view of two Punch & Judy type characters portrayed by socks on their hands. Except in these scenes, the characters say what they really mean, instead of all the game-playing they do in human form.
While an interesting and entertaining way to cut the show’s heaviness, the puppet scenes end up clashing with the dramatic moments. It makes it much harder to take the characters’ pain seriously when they come forward to recite a dramatic monologue in a spotlight, when we have barely caught our breath from laughing at their whininess when they were puppets.
While an unarguably beautiful and witty play, “Twelve Treatises” is uneven in its tone. It is, however, a lot of fun and completely worth watching. I would give it 4 out of six stars.
23 September 2007
sorry this has taken so long to post. Please check out the original threads on Mountain Xpress website, too... B.G.
Players inject life into dying dog
by Cecil Bothwell on 08/16/2007
In last week’s preview of enigmatic theatre company’s world premier of Athena, I wrote that it “demands special effects that can’t reasonably be expected to work in the NCSC black box space.” Either I jinxed them, or some wag on the crew decided to pull a plug for my benefit.
The second performance of the play, Aug. 15, was crippled by a backstage power failure which eliminated video projections necessary, again quoting my preview, to “suggest the climactic house-wrecking wind storm” in the penultimate scene. It’s always something. Video or no, the storm scene was more effectively portrayed than I anticipated. Alas, the play itself was no better. There wasn’t a lot of there there, and not much to care about.
However, stellar performances by David Hopes, as Donald, a lightning victim of quiet beauty, and Tiffany Cade, as Kate, a slightly neurotic post-partum mother, graced the evening. Others on the cast turned in commendable performances and brought a bit of life to the stage.
Michael MacCauley’s direction was inspired, weaving the multiple scenes of an extended one-act play into a continuous tapestry, and Brian Sneeden’s lighting and sound were excellent. Knowing Peter Brezny’s work, I could only imagine that the multimedia piece of the puzzle would have been equally fine — but there was that pesky blackout.
The direction, production and acting in this show left me hoping for more from this young stage company. Next time with juice.
— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer