Friday, September 23, 2011
This North Coast Weekend
Into the Woods continues at North Coast Rep, while Fat Pig is in its final weekend at HSU's Gist Hall Theatre.
There were two reviews of Fat Pig this week: in the Lumberjack (a rave) and the Journal (a pan.) I saw it opening night and for me it was definitely worthwhile. I don't know any of Neil LaBute's other work, and from what I've read about it, I likely won't be seeking it out. But I read this play several times and the writing is intriguing. A very sparse and realistic-seeming style--it's no accident that it's dedicated to David Mamet, who early in his career wrote about people of about this age (in their 20s.) So the sound of it from this cast was interesting to me, and something of a revelation. The actors made it their own, and made it contemporary in a way that I didn't imagine, so I learned something.
In terms of acting and production, I always discount for opening weekend a little, as a play is finding its feet and the actors are learning more about their characters and how to play them. But from the first beat, Colleen Lacy brought her character alive, which makes the other characters possible. Kyle Ryan has the most difficult part, I thought when reading the play, and he's a gamer. He's up to the challenge. He has to keep this guy on the edge without getting shrill. He had already found some interesting spaces and ways to explore them. His performance is alive, and I like being there for that, even when it isn't perfect. They all have to find a rhythm with this unusual dialogue and play. That's intriguing. And they put the play across clearly enough to communicate it to the audience, which is their basic task.
There was a talkback opening night, and the responses were often more about the lives of the people (mostly students) who talked, than about the play. So they got themselves into the play and its issues, which confirmed my feeling that students are the main audience for this play. That makes the Lumberjack review (a very rare event) especially appropriate.
My review of Into the Woods will appear in the Journal next week. If you like Sondheim and specifically this play, you'll probably go see it, and you should. It seems an especially good production for children and older kids. The performances, the basic clarity of the direction and the production, all praiseworthy. So if you're inclined to see it, don't wait until next week for any review. But, you know, read it afterwards.