February 04, 2006

A mixed bag

Tonight I breezed into CFA at 7:29 to head to the latest Studio Theatre offering, and paused briefly to ask what it was they were setting up in Kresge. It was the Knox-Galesburg Trio, and the ticket-taker suggested I should go there instead of the studio shows—"the first one is really bad," they said, "although the second one's okay."

I don't know that I'd call it "really bad", but I did feel that Adolf Hitler: The Larry King Interview wasn't all it could have been. Written by Jon Stewart (yes, that one), it's about what you'd expect (and you can read most of it online). For whatever reason, the director cast both parts as female, and this was a poor choice. You could tell that the script was funny as they were performing it, but half the humour or more comes from the clash between a stiff, awkward, and deeply evil military man on the proverbial therapist's couch, breaking down and crying, etc. That tension just wasn't there. I had to keep reminding myself, "Oh, right, that's Hitler, that's why it's funny." To be fair, it's a tricky line to walk: if you were just handed these lines and told to act them out, you could do a perfectly adequate acting job that just wouldn't be funny. You have to first convince me you're Hitler, and then do the emotional stuff.

The second one was a real actors' show: The Actor's Nightmare takes the archetypal actor's nightmare—being placed on stage in a part you've never rehearsed and don't know any lines for—and runs with it. Since it is a dream/nightmare, normal rules don't apply and non sequiturs carry the day. It was a fun show, and funnier the more you knew about the different plays they were quoting snippets of. (And I'm sure I missed quite a lot of them, too.) The ensemble did a good job with the shifting, drifting characters they were playing, surreal in the way that only dreams can be. The lead, Chris Guthrie, was a lot more grounded (appropriate, since it was his dream), and although he had a tendency to get a bit shrill at times, he did "confused" and "frustrated" pretty well.* The whole cast got a bit shrill at the end; from about halfway in I could see this was going to be another show with an interesting premise and a fun exploration, but no ending to speak of. (I guess conclusions are hard even if you are a creative writing type.) Sure enough, the show ended with everyone onstage, shouting (because that's funny, right?), and finally the lead "dies", ending the show. They did a cute gimmick with the "dead" lead not moving for curtain call, but they ruined the moment by breaking the scene before the audience had a chance to uncomfortably decide whether to pick up and leave or not. Alas. But in any case, the show as a whole I found clever and very funny, and pretty well executed.

*Oh, and chalk up yet another play with a guy running around in his underwear. I'm telling you....

"Everybody knows Carville's not playing with a full deck; I know where the missing cards are." --Paul Begala

Posted by blahedo at 11:52pm on 4 Feb 2006
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