Friday, June 17, 2005

What is this bullshit? Give me the cheese!

"Book of Days" at Steep Theatre. This play made me angry. Angry and hungry. Angry and hungry is a first.

The anger is easily explained by the bastardly actions of the play's villains. The hunger... partially explained by the fact that I didn't get out till 10:40, but also by the way certain characters kept talking about cheese. Delicious, aged, artisanal chedder. Even though the plot swings on a covered up murder, and sports religious hypocrisy and a cheating spouse, I was at least as emotionally engaged with the cheese. "No, no no! You conniving, prejudiced, grasping, pompous evil jerks!" I barely managed to not shout. "Don't you give that aged provolone to Kraft to be turned into velveeta! You give it to me!"

Now, as I sit before my computer gnawing on this almost acceptable hunk of swiss I bought at the all night Jewel 20 minutes ago, let me make it clear that I got more out of the play than a longing for cheese. I spent most of the second act trying not to shout for all sorts of reasons ("No! Don't tell him that! He's evil! Don't grant him that anullment! Argh!")-- even worse form than at a movie, because the actors really can hear you.

Overall, great play, about this genuinely charming little town that gets small minded and nasty by the second act. But not in a didactic or irritating way. There's both murder, and a play within a play, so it passes the Hamlet test.* Fantastic heroine too- adorable, sturdy bookkeeper/community theatre actress/ amateur sleuth/ hapless truthteller Ruth Hoch, who plays Joan of Arc on stage and on the streets. Krista Forster did a fine job in that role, as did Tom Hickey, her cheese obsessed husband. Very likable characters, who I admire, respect, and agree with, especially about cheese. Egan Reich was funny, but by no means stereotypical, as the talented bi-coastal refuge hired to direct the little town's production of Shaw's Saint Joan. And Alex Gillmore was infuriating as the bad guy. I single out these guys for being great. The rest of the huge cast was solid... not exciting, but ok.

The venue (Steep Theatre) won points for being sweet, and for having real wooden chairs instead of seats. Also, couple steps from the Sheridan Redline.
It lost major points (and how!) for the rockabilly songs that were clearly audible through the much of the second act. I mean, not just thumping base, but actual words, and harmonica solos. Poor actors.
It's quite tiny, also. Even with a full house, the audience doesn't outnumber the cast by much. Created a certain amount of staging awkwardness. Actors kept subway shuffling round each other. But I liked the tiny.

*The Hamlet test: Could I gratuitously bring up Hamlet when discussing this play? See! Just did.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I said to you in person, this is proof of theatre's power to inspire. It can affect your life. It can make you eat cheese.


11:20 AM  

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