Oh, right, last weekend.
The weekend started last Thursday evening at the Modern Theater with Joyce Van Dyke's Deported/A Dream Play. I was enthralled from the moment I took my seat and took in Jon Savage's set. It's the kind of set that makes you want to get out of your seat and wander through it. It just sucks you in and it's real and dreamlike at the same time, and over the course of the evening it offers up some nice surprises. What I loved about the production, aside from the important story that the play is based on (the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire) and the incredible acting that literally brought tears to my eyes, is how the entire production was put together. It started out a few years ago with Van Dyke and Director Judy Braha collaborating, and bringing the actors together to figure out how to tell the story. Through the richness of details throughout the production, you can see the presence and results of this collaboration. It's the thing all theatre artists pine for, I think, that one point in your career when everyone is working together and it's all creative and energetic and engaging, and the result of all your hard work is so obvious and enjoyable for all.
I came home that night and said to Sue that she had to see it. She normally is on call Thursday nights, but tonight she got coverage and we're going to see it again. I can't wait. I guess I feel about this the same way some people feel about Dexter, not that I even know what Dexter is. I keep hearing about it though.
Friday night took us to the BCA for Edward Albee's The Play About The Baby produced by Exquisite Corps. I wasn't familiar with the play so I was excited to see something new by the master, and of course being Albee I knew I probably was in for a crazy ride. I was also excited to see a production by Exquisite Corps. I saw their terrifically engaging production of Trout Stanley last fall at The Factory Theater, and knew I was going to see a good production. This was a play in which I was totally reliant upon the actors to shepherd me through the evening. As with a lot of Albee, you're on thin ice--a lot. You're not sure where you're going, the world seems tippy and unstable, and it's a very unsettling feeling to try to make sense out of things, because just as soon as you think you've got the a line to walk along, it all goes blurry. In this case, the characters are not very reliable either, which is in part because of the great acting by two talented actors, Bob Mussett and Janelle Mills, who portrayed some fairly despicable characters with energy and pure enjoyment, which actually made the play even more disconcerting.
The church is a beehive of activity there on Washington Street in Brighton Center. I truly didn't know what to expect, but the sanctuary of the church was filled when we took our places. The play is about school bussing as it took place in South Boston during the seventies, and it's a terrific script still in development that follows the lives primarily of the Crowley family of South Boston. In the audience were people who lived through bussing, both whites and blacks, and what they had to say during the talkback about the play and their own experiences during that time were so touching. The play allowed them to feel free enough and safe enough to share their stories, and what is theatre is not the sharing of stories? That afternoon it extended off the stage and into the audience where it became a truly communal event.
If anyone ever asks me what's the point of theater, I can tell them about this afternoon. Politics foster debate, and particularly now during a presidential election year, we see that debate really just polarizes. I'm not sure what comes out of debating anymore. There are winners and losers and that means there is still a chasm between people, and as a nation we're divided enough. We don't need more division.
But theatre fosters dialogue. Talking. Listening to one another and learning from one another. It helps us understand things we didn't understand, and it brings us closer together again, as opposed to dividing us.
After hanging out with the audience members and eating incredible cookies and pastries (man, what is it with church congregations and their socials? They're events unto themselves) I hustled back home, changed clothes, and grabbed the T to Mass Avenue to The Factory Theater to see Whistler in the Dark's Recent Tragic Events. I think it's interesting to note that three out of the four pieces of theatre I attended last weekend were based on actual historical events. As As I said, Deported concerns the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire and Hurrah for the Revolution is about bussing in Southie during the seventies. Recent Tragic Events is set on the day after 9/11, and like the other two plays, focuses on the lives of people affected by the event.
I loved Recent Tragic Events. I loved it for its simple set. I loved it for its quirkiness and how it used humor and the quirkiness to make that horrible time more approachable. I loved the way it got serious and back to quirky again, the way your best friend can get when she's free-associating. As always, wonderful portrayals by Aimee Rose Ranger and Nate Gundy, who are fast becoming my favorite fringe actress and actor, Alejandro Simoes, and the multitalented Meg Taintor (artistic director, actress, puppeteer). And let's not forget Whistler stalwart, Jen O'Connor, who played a pivotal role in that particular production.
And on Sunday I rested.