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Keyword: ‘Character from Performance’

Mr. Burns @ CPT

March 2nd, 2016 No comments

Hoofed it over to CPT last week to see Mr. Burns. The production was fantastic, especially the third act which is so brilliantly done it makes the whole play worth seeing, which is saying something because the play itself is not that great, in fact, weighing in at two hours and fifteen minutes, this play could have been cut.

The first act is a post-apocalyptic campsite, and for fans of the Walking Dead it’s as close to the tv show as you’ll get in a live theater performance. The atmosphere is realistic and tense. The characters are clearly forced together and pass the time talking about Simpson episodes. Why? Who knows. They also talk about Night of the Hunter, the fantastically surreal film by Charles Laughton that stars Robert Mitchum as a murderous ex-con preacher with Love and Hate tattooed on his fists. Again, not really sure what this has to do with the play, unless Washburn is relying on the preacher’s chasing two kids across an apocalyptic landscape as a reference–for those who’ve seen the film. There’s also the reference to Cape Fear, the film also starring Robert Mitchum, in which a killer wronged by an attorney terrorizes the attorney’s family, finally cornering them on a river boat during a storm: again, a survival story with a killer. Connection to the play? This first act sets the characters and circumstances….

The second act is 7 years later, I think. Something like that. Mankind has broken into tribes that apparently have nothing better to do than re-stage Simpsons episodes. The tribes from different areas fight over lines and episodes and stories and the whole of it is pretty absurd, which I have to assume is the intent, and way too damn long. This act enforces the importance of the Simpsons to this universe, perhaps warning us about the things that we value, or the unexpected cultural artifacts that a civilization leaves behind.

The third act is very much later, I think 75 years. I am not sure what to make of this act, whether it is a theatrical enactment or a religious ritual. It is, however, the most impressive act of the production. The costuming, choreography, sound, light, and Megan Elk performing a Japanese Noh ritual dance that is as fantastic as it is strange. The third act is operatic and the stage mechanics of the Cape Fear boat, complete with the life saver bearing Love Hate from Night of the Hunter all return, is magical. Mr. Burns finally appears here, setting up a final fight between Burns and Bart. This stylized fight has much in common with the Nutcracker and the Rat King in the ballet, complete with Itchy and Scratchy as Mr. Burns’ minions.

The show, performance-wise, is worth seeing. The content and structure of the play itself would be a bit much to endorse, unless you’re truly a Simpson-ophile and a fan of whacky theater. Convergence put up The Internationalist in 2011, a much better representation of Washburn’s work.

Nude Reclining into Shadow

February 2nd, 2015 No comments

Nude Reclining by Nathan Motta

Photo by Nathan Motta

Attended a staged reading of Christopher Johnston’s play Nude Reclining into Shadow at Dobama. The reading featured the talents of Lara Knox, Dana Hart, and John Busser.

The following description is from the event listing from Playwright’s Gym:

“Keegan is a middle-aged artist who once reveled in national acclaim for his paintings and photographs. He’s been away from the limelight for many years, however, and survives by teaching a college class in painting at his decrepit studio. Now, just when he’s at a new low and the university is forcing him to retire, he meets Amaris, a beautiful, young, fiercely independent model who is equal parts inspiration and exasperation. She could become the new muse he so desperately desires to start painting again – or his worst nightmare.”

The role of Keegan was read by Dana Hart and that of Amaris was read by John Busser, just kidding, it was Lara Knox, with Busser handling the stage directions.

The eventual performance will be a mix of media, including screen projections (text and video), studio space action, and movement through time.

I have to say, from the reading, that I did not pin Keegan as a middle-aged artist. This had nothing to do with the reading itself, but more to do with the predicament of the artist, the unfamiliarity with more modern communication devices, and perhaps the social disconnection that were both of his own making and the passage of time. I imagined him as more early to mid sixties or later, perhaps. More specifically, it seemed that the artist character was reclining into shadow, shadow of a more permanent sort.

I’m not going to discuss the play too much because I’m still thinking about it and it has not been staged, which will make a pronounced difference. I will say that I found it intensely engaging and, through a series of intimate encounters, a play about longing with a heightened eroticism that I haven’t experienced in many plays before.

I do hope that it finds it’s path to a full production.

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