October 10, 2004

"Good Boys" at ACT

Every once in a while, we're lucky enough to be reminded, viscerally, of the emotional power that live theater, uniquely among art forms, has to offer.

Tonight, the reminder was served up by ACT's production of Jane Martin's recent play "Good Boys". This riveting, tense, supercharged, and blessedly short play is centered around an encounter between two fathers: eight years before, James' son killed Thomas' son in a Columbine-style shooting at his high school.

Staged in the round in ACT's intimate Allen Theatre, this is a well-cast narrative onion of a play, with the conversation/argument going around and around, peeling back the layers of the tragedy one by one. The brilliant encounter between these two men who've never before met, but who have so much crucial shared history, is prefaced and punctuated with gut-grabbing scenes with their sons, especially with Ethan, the manic, middle-class, but grungy shooter. Ethan's several monologues, energetically and sometimes frighteningly delivered by Michael Scott, offer a look into the mind of a desperately frustrated teen, tempted by and eventually overcome by the kind of evil impulse that's inside us all.

Thomas Jefferson Byrd's portrayal of the former pastor, Thomas, also deserves a special mention: his marvelous artistic choices, from movement to delivery to subtly exposed inner complexity, help us to see more deeply the multi-faceted nature of forgiveness for the unforgiveable.

This wonderful production is still playing at ACT for another week, through October 17th. If you're in Seattle already, or can make it here in time, you owe it to yourself to feel the full intensity of what live theater can give you.

Internet Broadway Database

On the way home from the theater tonight, Kathleen asked who had written a play we'd both enjoyed many years ago entitled "The End of the World, with Symposium to Follow", and this caused me to wonder, rhetorically, why there wasn't a theater equivalent to the Internet Movie Database. Oh, well, I thought, the masses just don't care about the theater like they do the movies.

I knew that the person who'd written "End of the World" had also written the quirky "Oh Dad, Poor Dad (Momma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad)", but try as I might, I couldn't quite come up with his name.

Once I got home, I naturally Googled up the answer pretty quickly (Arthur Kopit, of course), but much more importantly I also accidentally Googled upon the answer to my earlier rhetorical query.

The Internet Broadway Database isn't as "broad" in its coverage as I'd like (it'd be great if it also covered all of the major regional theaters in the United States, for example, let alone the rest of the world), but it's still a wonderful find. Most major plays (and playwrights) eventually find their way to Broadway, so many of the most useful queries still work fine there.

Cool! What shall I rhetorically wonder about next?

September 19, 2004

"Jumpers" at ACT

Somehow, by a series of decisions that each seemed quite reasonable at the time, we've ended up with season tickets to three different professional theater companies at the same time. We started out with Seattle Rep, because we'd heard of it before and we wanted an excuse to get us over into Seattle from time to time. Then, after that season ended, we picked up an Intiman subscription to tide us over the late spring, summer, and early fall, until Seattle Rep came back around on the guitar. Finally, we got a mailer from ACT (A Contemporary Theater) for their season, which included "Jumpers", a Tom Stoppard play that neither Kathleen nor I had ever seen. So, of course, we had to sign up for that, too.

Tonight, at last, was "Jumpers" night, and what a play it was. Apparently, after The National Theatre produced Stoppard's first play, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead", they told him they'd put on whatever he wrote next, giving him essentially free rein.

Hoo boy.

Stoppard took that freedom and ran with it, literally to the moon and back, with this bizarre combination of hard-core philosophical debate (intuitionism vs. logical positivism, for those keeping score) and surreal farce. It's quite a ride and you'd better be paying close attention to the details of the arguments; there's a quiz-cum-coda at the end.

David Pichette puts on a truly remarkable performance as the second-rate (but passionate) intuitionist philosopher George Moore (no relation to the earlier, realer, and better known intuitionist of the same name). He so effortlessly carries the incredibly long and intricate speeches that it was no surprise at all to find out later that he actually appears to have some background in this area.

Unfortunately, tonight was closing night, so I can't really urge you to grab this rare opportunity to see this impressive play performed so well. You'll just have to live with being disappointed to have missed it.