I am back from Ashland. Five plays in three days. Over the years I have tried to talk about each one individually, and some years I do a big lump summary. This is a big lump summary.
Anthony and Cleopatra
Fine fine fine. Costumes were good, acting was good, there were lighting tricks my family is still arguing about exactly how they puled it off. I did not read the play beforehand, so I don’t know if this is in the original, or in the edits, but I didn’t get the loyalty so many characters showed to Anthony. I didn’t see the great leader who inspired such loyalty, but the old man forgoing his duties to spend more time with his trophy mistress.
On the plus side, exploring those ideas of loyalty led me to outlining four stories in a cycle.
One of the remaining four on my bucket list (Timon of Athens, Titus Andronicus, and King John are the remaining three), and well worth it. It was produced in the Thomas Theater, the black box of OSF, and everything they do there is magic. Pericles as a hero is well worth watching, other than one fatal flaw, which is endemic of Shakespeare. One letter, written and delivered, would have saved all the grief in the world. The idea that Pericles wouldn’t write his daughter in 18 years is a bit much (or was it 14? I think it’s 14 in the play, 18 in this production).
In short, go see it.
I haven’t read the book (but I now have a hold for it in the queue) and I haven’t seed the movie (also in the hold queue at my library). I thought the story was something else than it was, but it was a great story. Two intermissions, the experience of which made me think of Box by the Pulp Stage in January. There is a lot of discussion about storytelling around this play that I hope to write up sometime soon.
Guys and Dolls
Memory lane. I did this show in high school. I played a drunk, a cuban dancer, and gambler, and a janitor. I think there was another role, too, but memory fades. It’s a fun show. They didn’t do anything to it other than change the dates to Runyons original stories, and that doesn’t hurt a thing.
The Count of Monte Cristo
I wanted to like this more than I did. I wanted to be wowed, but wasn’t. The two acts had two different tones, and I think there are some vital clues about the timeline that need addressing. Dantes is arrested shortly before his 21st birthday, spends 18 years in prison, and in play time appears as the Count of Monte Cristo to enact revenge just weeks after his escape and is even commented as being “no more than 35” by the judgement of one of the other characters (granted, that character is a youth). For the Count to learn everything he knows after his freedom could take years, not weeks.
There are good aspects to this show. The dancing is good, especially the waves, and the clap-quickaside in a spotlight-clap trick works for the most part, even when characters are pointing out the blindingly obvious.
Personally, I survived the Forced Death March through Lithia Park, but we did not have time for the Annual English Brother’s Arm-Wrestling and Bashing-of-Sandals-upside-the-Head contest. I am sure I would have won. Again.
Uncle Josh has dire news. You only have about 22 hours to get your tickets to Box, Part 3, on Monday February 9th.
Didn’t see parts 1 or 2? Don’t worry; there’s a synopsis.
You want good science fiction? Go see Box.
You want more good science fiction? Encourage The Pulp Stage to start a podcast.
I have a lot of unpacking to do, and a lot of real-world packing to do because I’m leaving for a business trip. I will post my final thoughts on Box later in the week.
Let me summarize, succintly, how I feel after watching Box Part 2 from The Pulp Stage:
YOU MEAN I HAVE TO WAIT A WEEK TO FIND OUT HOW THIS ENDS?!?!?!!???
I haven’t felt this worked up over a new play since Equivocation. Almost everything I said last week still holds true: The acting is superb. The hero moments draw applause. The tension grows into a cliffhanger that — well, see the above exclamation on that.
The one thing I got wrong was expecting Jane (Kaia Maarja Hillier) to play the system. If she stil is, she’s really damn subtle about it, which makes perfect sense given how clever she is.
I accept that this is written for the Readers Theater, so it seems unfair to discuss the appearance of the actors, but Leslie Spitznagel and Bryce Earhart look like Portia and Ethan should look. Were this a blocked stage production, these two could fit right in. If this were a radio play, these actors–even if I had not seen them–would be close to the mental models.
Brian Burger and Jacquelle Davis bounce between the extra characters, and that’s got to be fun. When they stand, you know you’re in for a small treat.
I know people may worry that you can’t see part 2 unless you’ve seen part 1, and to solve this, not only is there a synopses provided, but part 2 opens with a brief summary that sets the stage and kicks the story off again that would be fine even with a fifteen-minute intermission rather than a week. I expect part 3 is written with the same problem in mind.
And boy, will this be good. The tension in part two ramps up considerably. The system is viscious. The system is cruel. The system is, parodoxically, trying to enforce morality by dehumanization (but then again don’t all dystopias work that way?).
The end of part two had me shaking my fist and crying out “CONNOLLY!” in much the same way Sherlock fans shake their fists and cry “MOFFAT!” (You can’t really shake your fist screaming “CONNOLLY AND HAYNES” and I know Tina better.)
Luckily for me (and you), they are doing part 3 twice, once on Sunday February 8, and once on Monday February 9th. As I’m scheduled to fly to Omaha on the 9th, I’m really frikkin’ happy they scheduled it this way.
Go. Buy tickets. You won’t be disappointed.
Tonight was part one of Box by Tina Connolly and Matt Haynes, produced by The Pulp Stage, a readers theater here in Portland that’s worth their salt. It is the first part of a live science fiction trilogy. Parts two and three will be presented in the next two weeks. Here is the official blurb:
Jane, a high school student, has been arrested under suspicion of a heinous crime.
In a government detention center, Jane is wired to a virtual reality program that sends her through a series of flashbacks and fantasy games, all with the intent of exposing her crime and reprocessing her mind.
The clock is ticking… can Jane find her way “out” before the program takes total control of her?
Box is set in a dystopian future where almost everything anyone does that could be considered close to fun or even basically human, is a violation of some moral code, which have been enumerated and paired with appropriate punishments based on age and severity of offense. This does not sound like a great world to live in.
The story centers around Jane (Kaia Maarja Hillier) , a high school student who is being punished and “reprogrammed.” The punishment I am sure about, the reprogramming, well, almost everything in the story is a simulated mental game, so it’s hard to discern if anything imposed on Jane is real, even the bits that are “reality”. That’s the great thing about science fiction: it can explore deep philosophical ideas and entertain at the same time. Jane is a smart kid who could break the system and is up to something. Hillier plays this perfectly, with the assuredness of a cocky teenager with all the insecurities of a teenager when the shit hits the fan.
The A.I. (Rachel Joy Erickson) represents the whole screwed up world and it’s perfection in non-humanism. Erickson plays an A.I. It is a perfect voice for an A.I. with a modicum of intelligence and grit. It is most likely lying about everything
The remaining four members of the cast play multiple roles, including Jane’s BFF Portia, potential love interest Ethan, cops, drunken mothers, “crazy” old ladies with printers (the kind of crime Cory Doctorow writes about), and vice principals.
Jane is pushed around quite a bit, and the ramp up is quite tense through the first act. It really messes with the mind. There’s a reason I put scare quotes around reality a few paragraphs back. Everything is real and potentially unreal at the same time. The only thing we can count on is Jane’s authentic reactions to everything.
I expect this to change next week.
I advice you to order tickets now. I’ve got mine, so I’m not afraid to encourage the rest of you.
(Updated to fix a formatting error.)