Saturday, February 21, 2009

Frankie Says DREAM

The year before I started college the student run theater company on campus (“Generic Theatre”) did a production of Midsummer set in the 1970’s that by all accounts would have blinded you with its brilliance. People talked incessantly about that show, reliving the glory days, for years until finally everyone who had been involved with it had graduated. (Then my senior year I directed Twelfth Night secretly hoping it would become the show the underclassman talked about for years.)

I can imagine how the world of the 1970’s would have leant itself well to the play, and as much as I’m sure it couldn’t possibly have matched the rosy recollections, the details I did hear of the staging did seem pretty fucking cool.

As much as I, back then, may have wished that I had actually seen that show, today I wish it more than ever so I could compare it to Impact’s Midsummer set in 1980’s John Hughes high school America. The fickle love triangles, practical jokes, sexual humor, and childish games of the show play out perfectly in that mixed up stereotypical “Freaks and Geeks” land of dysfunction, pop music, punk and neon.

Melissa’s brilliant adaptation feels effortless and the cast of strong actors fills their roles with the comfort and nuance of an old concert t-shirt. The costumes: spot on 80’s. The music: perfectly wonderful and terrible. Melissa allowed the actors to occasionally and within proper bounds add modern 80’s flair to their lines in a way that brought the truth of the Bards words out to a modern ear. Or at least to the ears of someone with a knowledge of the 80’s. (Which Melissa obviously is.) It was never too much, and really made the lines more approachable.

Even the stage combat worked for me (which I often have problems with in a space as intimate as La Val’s). I did, however, find the intermission to be too late in the show, but unlike in the past, that’s really nobody’s fault but Shakespeare’s. He didn’t need to write for an intermission because his audience could come and go as they pleased without causing a ruckus. Whereas in the cramped quarters of a pizza parlor, the elderly woman next to me was dying to get out of her seat by the time intermission came. Curse you Shakespeare for being so timeless and yet not anticipating the needs of modern theater!

This same woman, however, said immediately after the show “That was terrific.” Her companion added, “It was good. It was really, really good.” Another friend came by to say “That was such fun.” But my favorite comment from her entourage was “That was not only good, it was entertaining.” I sat next to playwright Stephen Yockey (who’s play Skin is now playing at the Climate by Encore Theatre Company). He laughed so hard during the show I thought he was going to roll off on to the stage.

Go see it, but buy your tickets online in advance. They’ve sold out every show so far I think before the box office even opened (or shortly thereafter).

Oh, and another thing, Melissa didn’t do the usual double casting that often happens in Midsummer, largely because the 80’s archetypes being drawn on didn’t lend themselves to that. I must say it was quite refreshing to see it NOT doubled up as much as usual. The side-effect is of course a mammoth cast of unruly proportions. Fortunately she had Diana to keep them all in line.

And lest you think I am biased and simply giving the show a good review because my girlfriend stage managed it, know that I have not reviewed here every show she’s worked on. The ones I don’t like I tend just not to mention. “If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all” and all. But I can’t help but say good things about this show. And I’ll keep saying them for years and years to come until all the underclassman get sick of hearing it.

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.