Friday, April 27, 2007

opening-night review of *Dusk*

by Bryan Harnetiaux
at Spokane Civic's Studio Theatre through May 18

Returning to some of the same territory as his award-winning play *Vesta,* Bryan Harnetiaux — Spokane’s best playwright of the past 25 years — has fashioned a mostly intense and involving 70-minute meditation on death called *Dusk.* It focuses on Gil (Nik Adams), who’s 65, dying and unprepared for it — or, as he describes himself, “No will, no 401k, no God … just a boggy heart.” A social worker arrives to help Gil make some quality-of-care decisions just at the same time that all three of his children choose to descend on the family home. Gil’s anger — at them, at death — drives the plot.
*Dusk* is the first draft of a good play about death and dying, and it’s certainly worth watching for 70 minutes of the life you have left. There’s plenty to admire here: The theme itself, for example, with its insistence that most of us run away from discussions about death without even knowing why. And Harnetiaux’s adeptness at undercutting sentimentality with silliness: Repeatedly, he uses jokes well to defuse intense situations. His technique of characterizing offstage characters so that the five people we do see onstage seem to exist in an actual, rounded world. Stretches of sharp back-and-forth dialogue. His efficiency in recounting something literal — a fishing-trip story, a family tradition — and then revisiting it for a metaphorical payoff.
Some aspects need revising, however. A couple of flashback scenes were unclear both in terms of basic plot and thematic intent. What game were the children playing? What exactly was going on at the railroad tracks? If the idea was to demonstrate that the contentious adults had once been carefree children, it was at least a bit confusing to bring two of the adults before they had ever appeared onstage as their older selves.
One major implausibility is the presence — throughout a dysfunctional family’s extended duking it out over what it literally an issue of life and death — of a woman whom every one of them is meeting for the first time. As Elizabeth, the social worker and nurse practitioner who advises Gil on his end-of-life care options, Brooke Kiener has a mostly thankless task. Clipping off her consonants so precisely that it becomes distracting, Kiener is given great swaths of medical terminology to pronounce and explain. The effect is to make her character seem like a well-meaning robot. Playwright and actor have tried to humanize Elizabeth, giving her a little humorous give-and-take with Gil; and Kiener has a nice maternal, caring quality in her delivery. But Elizabeth still sits at that kitchen table as a distracting plot device nevertheless. By spreading the action over several days instead of a single histrionic night — and by allowing Elizabeth room to leave the family members to argue on their own terms, and alone — the playwright could achieve greater plausibility.
Gil’s three children fall into recognizable types: the doofus, the career man, the responsible one. As the daughter who stayed close to home and took Dad to all his doctor visits, Sara Nicholls has another unforgiving role: It would be easy to let Nan be a nag and nothing more. But there’s an especially good father-daughter confrontation between Adams and Nicholls that brings some powerful emotions to the fore. None of us wants to admit responsibility when it comes to our loved ones and leave-taking.
Director Diana Trotter keeps the action flowing around that weighty kitchen table. There’s a moment near the end, almost predictable, when Gil comes near death again; Trotter groups her troops effectively here, creating a near-death tableau that characterizes everyone onstage without over-sentimentalizing the whole scene. And that father-daughter face-off had good intensity.

… It’s a privilege for Spokane playgoers to be in on the first draft of a play written by a man who’s 25 years older than he was when he started creating material like this for the Civic. (Come to think of it, so are the rest of us.)
When *Dusk* starts to turn into night — when it comes to the point of decision-making, of directly confronting the fact of his own mortality — Gil can be heard to mutter, “No matter what, you’re always surprised.” Part of what he’s getting at is that down deep, it’s hard to wrap our minds around the idea of our own particular non-existence.
Dying is something other people do — until it’s not.

For comments about the anger and exasperation in Nik Adams’ portrayal of Gil — and for more on Harnetiaux’s themes and on the acting of Benjamin Lee and Maxwell Nightser as Gil’s two sons, Fitz and Micah, please pick up a copy of *The Pacific Northwest Inlander* on Thursday, May 3.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

photos of *Dusk*

Browse on over to
to see three photos of the cast in Bryan Harnetiaux's new play at the Civic

Maria is a problem

re the upcoming Civic production of *The Sound of Music,* check out this amusing "memo" from Mother Superior to the other nuns:

Monday, April 16, 2007

Actors Repertory Theatre's 2007-08 season

Aug. 24-Sept. 9, 2007
All the Great Books (abridged)
from the same team that brought you The Compleat Works of Wm. Shakespeare (abridged)

Sept. 21-Oct. 7
Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, with David Ogden Stiers as James Tyrone

Nov. 23-Dec. 9
Souvenir, by Stephen Temperly
a two-hander and a true story: a New York society matron and her accompanist. Seems that Florence Foster Jenkins thought she had a world-class voice. She didn't. But she had pots and pots of money, so she could afford to rent out Carnegie Hall for concerts.

Jan. 11-27, 2008
David Lindsey-Abaire's Rabbit Hole (which just today won the Pulitzer Prize)
directed by Tralen Doler

April 4-20
Pete 'n' Keely, by James Hindman
played off-Broadway in 2000
a comic musical with new songs and some tunes from c. 1968
based loosely on Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme; they're appearing on an NBC special and haven't spoken since their divorce five years ago. "Fever" indeed.
starring Curt Olds

Friday, April 13, 2007

April 13 comments

comment on double bookings:
But who had the rights first? Both theatres will offer great entertainment i'm sure.

comment on *Humble Boy* at Actors Rep:
All I can rmember from Hamlet is everybody was dead by the end and that wasn't what happened in ths play. i liked the gardener guy to allot but I know why you didn't say anything about him. The boyfriend was good to but kind of out of place. I've never seen a show with someone as famos as Patty Duke but she didnt over-pwoer it like I figured someone like that could. She was good and really nice to meet her.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


The Resident Curmudgeon has left a new comment on your post "yet more recent posts: duplicate programming; Civic fund-raisers":

To whomever it is that calls attention to my "burgeoning imagination" - checked and verified. The LCPH announced its 2006-2007 season in advance of the announcement from The Civic, and announced its 2007-2008 season the first week in February. The Interplayers made their first informal announcement - which included two LCPH selections - April 5th., albeit The Interplayers could announce only part of their season. They are still trying to get the rights to a couple of things. See this blog-Saturday, April 07, 2007. But my point remains. Why drive to Spokane and look for parking when I can see the same show - often as well done - here in Coeur d'Alene?
P.S., Love it when those with slings and arrows are unwilling to identify themselves on this blog. Ah, to be among the anonymous!

Bobo: Well, exactly, and it's why I try to monitor these, edit some and will probably soon revert to only identified postings.

double bookings, and more

If Lake City Playhouse is starting its season with Man of La Mancha and ending with Into the Woods (and if Spokane Civic Theater is doing the reverse), and those productions are months apart (and the Civic's Into the Woods is on one night only this October, with Lake City doing a full production in May 2008), then it seems to me that there's not terribly too much conflict: the one production will be a pleasant, several-months-old memory by the time the same show rolls around at the other, 30-miles distant theater. (Those two theaters, of course, recently almost overlapped their respective productions of The Nerd.)

But now we have the additional prospect of both Lake City Playhouse and Spokane Interplayers Ensemble not only sharing titles next season, but literally the same production, in the case of The Rainmaker. It's presently scheduled to run — in a version featuring Kelly Quinnett and William Rhodes — for two weeks at Interplayers in early October, followed by an Oct. 26-Nov. 10 run, with the same actors and design elements, at Lake City Playhouse.

This marks a locally unprecedented (?) collaboration between a community theater in Idaho and what used to be Spokane's only resident professional theater (with Actors Rep now just as resident — with respect to housing out-of-town actors — and even more professional — in quality of productions — though lacking in what Interplayers does have, a theatrical space of its own; ARt is going ahead with a fourth season in its rental quarters at SFCC's Spartan Theatre for next year): Lake City gets a thoroughly rehearsed and worked-in professional production, and Interplayers gets ... to avoid spending more money than it has to?

But Bobo's being catty like that (sorry) points toward the old days of pointless competition, when the Welches, having acted at Spokane Civic Theatre, wanted to differentiate their new professional venture from the Civic by forbidding any Civic actors from working at Interplayers. We don't need any sniping: It's not as if the theatrical pie around here is so vast that any one theater can slice off a piece and afford to ignore the others.

The group ad in The Inlander (several theaters all advertising together, in the same ad, collectively) is a good step toward local theatrical cooperation. Brian Doig, artistic director at Lake City, says that at the next meeting about the future direction of that ad, he intends to broach the idea of local A.D.s and managing directors meeting on occasion to share program-planning in a general and preliminary way, to foster a spirit of cooperation and to help avoid the kind of duplicate programming that we're witnessing now. (In late 2003, CdA Summer Theater leaked that it had programmed Cats for the following summer -- at which point Best of Broadway leaped in, snarling, with claws out, and promptly scheduled for spring 2004 ... you guessed it, Cats. As if we don't have enough theatrical felines among us. Just read the running joke in Six Degrees of Separation.)

Doig emphasizes that priority of scheduling (we got there first, so neener-neener) doesn't matter for non-professional productions. And he's right: Bobo has been too snarky in this late-afternoon, low-blood-sugar entry, and he really does want to see local theaters cooperating.

Doig reports that in October 2006, a committee of 15 to 20 people met at Lake City Playhouse, armed with lists of every show produced by every local theater for the past 10 years. From that, they worked up potential choices in a variety of genres (musicals, dramas,comedies, children'sshows, etc.) and narrowed it to a few in each area before announcing their 2007-08 season. Any duplication is probably a sign that wise heads at various theaters saw similar potential for certain titles to bring on dependable ticket sales. Would it really be giving away the store if local artistic directors, at least at community theaters, met to say, hey, here are a half-dozen musicals and a half-dozen American classics we're thinking of doing, and how would that impact your theater?

Another title that Lake City and Interplayers will share: On Golden Pond, with Ellen Travolta and Jack Bannon rumored for the December slot at Interplayers and the Lake City production following just three months later (March 28-April 10). But Doig thinks that such an instance of repetitive scheduling won't hurt his CdA theater, since only a small percentage of the Lake City audience makes the drive across the state line.

Still awaiting the new season announcement, this week, from Michael Weaver's Actors Rep. (We know they'll open with Stiers in LDJiN; and he announced they'll do a musical next year; and Tralen Doler will be back to direct Christina Lang in a drama not quite finalized and that Bobo knows but cannot reveal ... but what else?

Not a lot of people will see both productions of the same title in a given season -- except for real die-hards and people without real lives like theater critics -- and stop my whingeing already, I get in to shows free and boo-hoo — but I do want people to consider this: Every time a road company brings in Cats or Mamma Mia for the umpteenth time, that's one lost opportunity to see Putnam County Spelling Bee or Light in the Piazza or [your musical here} {is that the title?} or -- dare I say it, they're marketing by one of the touring companies' managing firms, John Patrick Shanley's Doubt ... a serious, non-musical play ...but then Bobo's flashing back to about 1992, when M. Butterfly actually played the Opera House as a late substitution for some musical or other. It was probably Cats.

yet more recent posts: duplicate programming; Civic fund-raisers

More chatter about duplicate programming at local theaters:
Curmudgeon in residence,such a sweeping accusation, swept as they must be from your burgeoning imagination, unless you are privy to some insider information except to the rest of us. Did you ever consider and this is speculation, that Civic may have chosen it's season well ahead of Lake City Playhouse?

updates (from Donovan S.) on the fund-raisers aimed at financing travel for the entire cast of *Assassins,* to send them to Charlotte, N.C., in late June:
Assassins. Saturday, April 28, at 8 pm on the Main Stage (full version) Tickets: $25

Lonely Planet. Wednesday, May 9, and Sunday, May 13, both at 7:30 pm, in the Studio Theatre with Troy Nickerson and Thomas Heppler (the original cast members). Tickets: $20.

Cabaret: Food, Glorious Food! presented by Abbey Crawford. Sunday, June 3, at 7 pm and 9 pm. The show runs one hour. Small plate included and no-host wine and beer. Tickets: $20

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

some recent posts

The Resident Curmudgeon has left a new comment on your post "Interplayers' 2007-08 season (partial listing)":
I must wonder why our Spokane houses are starting to play copy-cat to the Lake City Playhouse. This season The Civic put on "The Nerd" immediately after it closed at The Playhouse (haven't seen The Civic's production, but they will be hard pressed to top The Playhouse's outstanding production),
and now Interplayers announces they will duplicate two plays The Playhouse announced in February would be in their 2007-2008 season - "The Rainmaker" and "On Golden Pond." (see your blog of Feb 6, 2007).
Seems to me the Spokane Houses are flirting with losing some of their Coeur d'Alene audiences if they keep this up.

new comment on your post "opening-night review of *Humble Boy*":
posted by Anonymous:
I likewise enjoyed the production and the performances very much. As you say, one fo the best ARt has done. The cast was solid and wonderful. I am however surprised at your praise for the writing. You mentioned the symbolism was too obvius in your review of ALL MY SONS, but those presented here are so much more so. Character names like "Felicity" "Flora" and "Humble." Please. And all that business with the father's ashes getting into people's food, and ew, how gross! How many sitcoms have we seen that business in? - Hell, maybe I'm missing the big picture or something, but I'd say this was a fairly stellar production of a play that needs a lot of work.

a new comment on your post "opening-night review of *Humble Boy*":
posted by Anonymous;
Carter Davis is the next big thing! Can't wait to see what he does next!!

just housekeeping stuff

1. Several of you have sent in comments that haven't yet been posted. It's due to technical difficulties. One way or another, Bobo will rectify this problem. Some of the delay has to do with issues concerning how this blog will continue (and in what form, and with what rules for posting comments) once the crappy Inlander Website gets a much-needed revamp. (We don't know of another alt-weekly in the country that allows unmoderated or anonymous postings to its in-house blogs.)

2. Sorry to make you bounce over to my account to view photos. My ignorance, having to do with Blogspot's getting out of Beta and revamping its own services.

3. Bobo made a last-minute editing decision today: To include a lengthier *Humble Boy* review with the promised additional comments, or to chop it way down (by about one-quarter in length) to make room for a much larger splash of the Patty-Duke-is-glaring-at-you shot. We went with the latter.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

opening-night review of *Humble Boy*

at Actors Rep (in residence at SFCC) through April 22

Concluding its third season with Charlotte Jones' *Humble Boy* (through April 22), Actors Repertory Theatre is presenting its best production yet — and it's not because of Patty Duke.

It's not in spite of her, either: Duke is effective in the emotionally remote, queen-bee role of Flora Humble, but it's the strength of Jones' script and of the cast surrounding Duke that makes *Humble Boy* a show not to be missed.

Mortality is a heavyweight presence in Jones' play — in the discussions of bees and flowers dying, in the ruminations about the swallowing-up of matter in black holes, even in the black drapes that form an off-putting background to John Hofland's country-garden set. We're all going to die, so at least we ought to live well. But of course we're pretty miserable at doing even that much. Even so, despite all that, we all retain a spark of something worth salvaging — a marker of salvation that comes to us unexpectedly, undeservedly, deliciously. Jones' characters are full of contradictions: You find yourself pulling for the guy who has allowed himself to become such a bundle of ineffectual neuroses that you'd just like to punch him, and when it comes to the play's unfeeling villains, there are entire episodes in which you realize with a start that even people with toxic personalities can appreciate good music, fine wine, and the fragrance of a bouquet. Our lives are of a mingled yarn, both good and ill together, and Jones has taken a tragedy and turned it into a (provisional) comedy.

That's because, to fully appreciate *Humble Boy* — right up to the play's final punning/serious line — it helps to know your *Hamlet.* But even a sketch of the premise will do: Brilliant young scholar, a misfit in any circumstances, feels especially alienated after his father's death and mother's too-sudden attraction to a grasping vulgarian. And yes, there's an Ophelia figure (much updated in the feminist way) provided as a kind of love interest for our central character — the ironically named Felix, who's anything but happy.

Felix is the Hamlet figure, and this is centrally his story — one of self-disappointment and lurching toward redemption. Carter J. Davis plays Felix as awkward and inept, forgetful, emotionally stunted. He may have the mind of a theoretical astrophysicist, but he's also a sad sack whose shoulders slump even when snapping to attention, as if he half-expects to cringe and fawn whenever his mother or her despicable boyfriend berate him. He's Eeyore, with the rain clouds perpetually following along from above. But the real strength of Davis' fine performance — with its stuttering and sudden outbursts of righteous anger, its self-mockery delivered in surprising combination with other-directed mockery — lies in how it borrows, loosely, from Shakespeare's hero. Like Hamlet, Felix Humble is a good man trying to do the right thing in a world gone wrong — and he's doing it badly, and he keeps trying anyway, and we forgive him his neuroses even as we would like to wring his neck for clinging to them, and (in the end) we applaud him for doing the best that he could in the circumstances. (A pretty fair summary of the best any of us can hope for.) Davis's performance has that kind of universality: He's awkward and unsure and self-critical, and it chimes with the way many of us talk to ourselves inside our own heads. Events conspire against Felix, but Davis also shows us how the man conspires against himself, just like the rest of us. Davis makes Felix hint at the universal.
There's one sequence — with Felix referring to himself in the aftermath of his father's death and mother's imminent re-marriage as "half an orphan," followed by an electric jolt to Duke's shoulder when he reaches out to touch her even while disgustedly characterizing her as "used goods" — that sears with its truth because Davis builds it so plausibly out of the comedy-born-of-anger that precedes it.

Jane May plays the Ophelia figure, Felix's ex-girlfriend, with masculine swagger. She throws her man to the ground and straddles him, literally slapping him around and generally calling the shots whenever the theoretical physicist is around. (He may be a theoretical physicist and brillliant and all, but he's still a lummox.) Leaning on tables in an accusatory way and firing off insults from behind a sweet smile, May presents Rosie Pye's protectiveness of the ones she loves as a nice counterpoint to the other characters' maternal (and paternal) deficiencies.

Therese Diekhans plays Mercy, a kind of enabler and lackey who showers little favors and unasked-for mercies on others, mostly as a cover-up for being the negligible cipher that she is. Fawning and flouncy, more than slightly daft, Diekhans brought down the house with the unexpected torrent of resentments she unleashes during second-act speeches about anti-depressants and taking "a sabbatical from God" (while saying grace before a meal, no less). Mercy's self-effacements form a remarkable contrast to the braying, drunken wife that Diekhans last created for ARt in Ayckbourn's *Absurd Person Singular.*

On the technical side, Justin Schmidt's lighting ranges nicely from nightmarish to bucolic. Hofland's set provides the requisite gravel pathways and bloomin' flowers — along with one characteristic surprise that links the show's motifs of flowers and stars.

Jones takes her time in mingling her comic and tragic effects, stretching Weaver's production to two and three-quarters hours (including intermission). As for the glimmers of potential happiness in the final scenes of reconciliation — they're well worth waiting for. But as good as Patty Duke often is in this show, don't come to a performance of *Humble Boy* just to see the star. Come to see the theatrical stars all around her, and to ponder our place in the night sky, out there among the real, unreachable stars.


For a revised version of this review, including comments on the acting of Patty Duke as Flora Humble, J.P. O"Shaughnessy as George Pye and Patrick Treadway as Jim the gardener, please pick up a copy of *The Pacific Northwest Inlander* on Thursday, April 12 .

Interplayers' 2007-08 season (partial listing)

Jim McCurdy announced the following from the stage just before last night's performance of *The Price*:

September 2007:
M. Thomas Nash's *The Rainmaker,* with much of the same artistic staff that brought us *Bus Stop* last September: presumptively, that means director Scot Alan Smith, actors Jonathan Rau, Kelly Quinnett, Ellen Travolta and more
McCurdy said that the show (the same production??) would be produced the following month, October, at Coeur d'Alene's Lake City Playhouse

Bernard Slade's *Same Time, Next Year*

*On Golden Pond,* with Ellen Travolta and Jack Bannon rumored for the elder roles

January 2008:
an unnamed play — they're still negotiating for the rights — but McCurdy alluded to it as having been produced in Chicago and Hartford, "and it just closed off-Broadway in December." (Can anyone elucidate?)

Feb. '08:
Sarah Ruhl's *The Clean House,* a wonderful script about joke-telling and literal and emotional cleanliness that was a Pulitzer finalist in '05

*Rounding Third,* a two-hander about two Little League coaches — one gung-ho and the other more laid-back — who exchange attitudes over the course of a baseball season (Circle Moon Theater — 30 miles north up Newport Highway, up there by Sacheen Lake — opens this same show late this month with Tony Caprile in one of the two roles) ... yet more evidence that local theaters are engaging in duplicate programming

late spring:
unannounced, but Scot Alan Smith and crew, we're told, are investigating an American classic for this slot

And, in the next couple of weeks ... if you want to take in an Arthur Miller doubleheader (*The Price* at Interplayers through April 21, and director Brian Russo's "interactive" *Crucible* at Gonzaga's Russell Theater, April 11-15), it's just $12 for students for both shows; $25 for adults.

Friday, April 06, 2007

opening-night review of Arthur Miller’s *The Price*

at Spokane Interplayers Ensemble through April 21, 2007

We’re all manipulators, every one of us — and sometimes it’s easier to just go on allowing yourself to be manipulated by others than it is to admit that you’ve been a sucker all along.
In addition, memory plays its tricks: If we keep picking at our emotional scabs, sometimes long-held assumptions prove to be nothing but dust.
Sorry to start with heavy matters, but Interplayers’ production of Arthur Miller’s The Price (through April 21) is a well-acted and thought-provoking show that sort of has that effect on you — you can’t just walk out of this show unaffected and start making small talk. (Or if you do, you’re just falling prey to the kind of avoidance and self-willed ignorance that’s been on display for much of the evening.)
Despite a long first-act set-up and a talky, overextended confrontation scene (the entire second act, which stretches the evening to two and a half hours), director Reed McColm’s production probes the way we value self-sacrifice, financial success, learned helplessness, self-assertiveness and more.
And despite the usually good and sometimes phenomenal acting going on here — and its own talkiness — the real star of the evening is Miller’s 1968 script. From the naturalistic exposition to the way the show’s comedian conceals wisdom inside shtick, from the ebb and flow of conversations that are clearly uncovering old resentments to the final happy/sad image reflecting the play’s motifs of manipulation and loss, The Price lays bare the kind of costs we all pay in achieving what we think we need at the expense of what we know we really yearn for.
After a 16-year estrangement, two middle-aged brothers — a successful physician and a beat cop — meet to arrange the selling-off of their family possessions. Their father had died (not coincidentally, 16 years ago), elderly and defeated, having lost everything in the Depression. The cop’s wife and an elderly appraiser of the kind of used furniture found in estate sales round out the cast of characters.
As the police sergeant — the responsible one, the one who sacrificed so much — Maynard Villers embodies moral authority while being smart enough to keep his character’s outrage in check so that there’s something left for a second-act payoff. With hands on hips and belly protruding over his gun belt, Villers throws his literal weight around William Rosevear’s antique-strewn set while still maintaining a kind of soft-spoken gentleness around his wife, his brother, and even the junk dealer. Villers is stolid, resistant to change, but always holding his suspicions (things that he thinks he knows and holds dear) in reserve.
As wife who wants to escape being saddled with a cop’s lifestyle and sees the estate sale as a ticket to happiness, Maria Caprile seemed better at conveying Esther’s depression than her resentments and anger. With downcast looks and her gray hair in a tight bun, Caprile was quite good at portraying wifely disappointments. During some of the yelling confrontations, however, her high-pitched and nasal voice came off as screechy-strident rather than filled with the conviction of being downtrodden for 20 years and not-gonna-take-it-anymore.
But the ebb and flow of this long-married couple’s conversation was a delight to witness: You could sense the emotional shorthand between them —and which arguments were new while which other ones they’d been having for years.

But this show really takes off with the entrance of McColm as Gregory Solomon, the 89-year-old Russian expatriate with a still-curious mind, a surprising background and a nose for appraising furniture and wheedling his way toward an advantageous price. (In typical style, Miller’s script doesn’t let us forget that all kinds of things have their price. You can hear the audience hush for the big lines.)
With grayed and stringy hair, with palsied hands fumbling over a cane and a notebook, his eyes suddenly goggling behind his spectacles whenever a beloved memory — or the prospect of finagling a great deal — comes over him, McColm creates a complete portrait of the Russian-inflected ex-acrobat who’s now running rings around his potential customers.
McColm’s delivery of Solomon’s speech about shopping and high-quality furniture (we fear death, so we gorge ourselves with more stuff; we fear the permanence of big acquisitions because maybe they’re all our lives are going to amount to) is worth witnessing all for itself.

McColm makes the elderly appraiser funny without descending into shtick. He makes his little jokes without making too much of them; he shows us the vitality still available in an old man’s life without doing any handstands. Through a series of misdirections — often literally looking one way while wielding his cane to point off in some other direction — McColm makes Solomon into a human and not a caricature. With questions that are tossed off nonchalantly, with eyes averted but glimmering, McColm’s old fogey turns tables on Villers’ cop and starts interrogating him. His outrage when falsely accused is all in the eyes and voice, which blink open and sputter into a higher range — none of this stamping about and waving one’s arms for McColm’s old man. He’s worthy of respect, and so is the actor portraying him.

As the older brother and successful man of medicine, Terry E. Snead looks dapper in a dark blue suit. A line of transformation follows the moments when he rubs his hands fastidiously across the front of that well-tailored suit and the moments later when he stomps and rages with that jacket removed. Snead has to convince us that the vision of a man and the era he comes to represent (Franz _pere_ and the Depression) can be seen in another light altogether, and he succeeds.

It’s a credit to Snead that Walter’s earnestness and moral reformation seem genuine to us in the second act, even though we’ve already heard from this brother for an hour about what a ne’er-do-well he was and is. Further, Snead’s characterization forcefully argues an alternate view of the Franz brother’s father. Was the helplessness of those thunderstruck by the Depression

And with the Depression reduced to “ancient history” in the minds of school kids who don’t even know which decade it took place in, will the impact of Miller’s play lessen?

It’s with some shock that veteran Miller observers will react to Walter’s gesturing toward the armchair that symbolizes the brothers’ long-dead father and declaring that he could never fully penetrate this complex man’s motivations, could never get to “the inside of his head.” That phrase, some may know, was Miller’s working title for his most famous play of nearly 20 years before, *Death of a Salesman.* (Miller’s original concept for the Salesman set was of a gigantic head that would open up and reveal the tribulations of the Loman family within.) The dead father in *The Price,* ruined by financial misfortune, hanging on after the nightmares of the Depression — a man who sees himself through the eyes of his two sons — is another version of Willy Loman.

Interplayers may have a talky, overlong, not-quite-up-to-tragic-intensity production going on — but it’s presenting an unjustly underappreciated American classic that arrives at a thought-provoking conclusion in unexpected ways. Maybe the sparse opening-night house (only 20 percent full) suggests that the Miller name doesn’t conjure the respect it once did. And after Interplayers’ recent string of middling shows and signs of financial distress, playgoers are probably taking a wait-and-see attitude. But McColm’s production of *The Price* deserves to be seen by people who care about the kind of theater that provokes conversations and burst-wide-open assumptions. With just one show remaining, it’s Interplayers’ best show of the season thus far.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

five photos of *Humble Boy* at ARt

... hey, they kept giving our photographer, Chris Bovey, a lot of setups.
All six members of the cast appear at least once -- now posted on Bobo's account
search for Sir Andrew Aguecheek's photos
*Humble Boy* will play at SFCC's Spartan Theatre, April 6-22, 2007

upcoming Civic fund-raisers: *Assassins,* *Lonely Planet,* and cabaret

Help the cast of *Assassins* be able to afford a trip to Charlotte for the AACT national competition in June by attending any or all of the following:

Saturday, April 28, at 8 pm at Spokane Civic Theatre:
a full version (with chorus!) of *Assassins* tickets: $25

Wednesday, May 9, and Sunday, May 13:
a staged reading of the last production to win at nationals for the Civic: Diana Trotter's 1999 production of Steven Dietz's *Lonely Planet* with — this is the great part — the two original cast members, Troy Nickerson and Tom Heppler

Friday-Saturday, May 25-26:
Abbey Crawford performs her cabaret show

photos of *The Price*

Snead, Villers, McColm, Caprile
Arthur Miller's drama at Interplayers through April 21
two photos now posted on Bobo's Flickr account ("Sir Andrew Aguecheek")

Monday, April 02, 2007

Harnetiaux's *Dusk* opens April 27 at Civic

by Bryan Harnetiaux
directed by Diana Trotter
April 27–May 18
Civic's Firth J. Chew Studio Theatre
Tickets: $14

Gil is wrestling with hospitals, humor, and heartache as he fights his terminal disease along with his family's help. But is Gil’s family actually helping? Are they really fighting for his life? Or would they prefer that he make a quicker exit?

with Nik Adams as Gil, Brooke Kiener as Elizabeth, Sara Nicholls as Nan, Benjamin Lee as Fitz and Maxwell Nightser as Micah

Visit or call 325-2507.

three photos of *The Nerd* at the Civic

... are now posted at Bobo's account: the three "normal" characters; the Waldgraves; and Rick the Nerd torturing people with his tambourine

*Assassins* wins regionals; on to Charlotte

The Civic's cut-down production won over entries from Idaho, Oregon and Alaska and will represent the Northwest at the AACT nationals in Charlotte, NC. in June. More to follow ...