Thursday, June 26, 2008

Look Back in Anger -- Orfeo Group

I went to see John Osborn's post WWII  bombshell, which premiered in 1956, with "the girls".    We remember WWII, we were children then, and the attitudes towards women's agency that prevailed when we came of age. June was surprised because she had recently seen the movie and in performance the play seemed much more cruel.  I remembered it as very cruel-- cruel enough that I carried away a lesson from the play: beware. Stay away from brilliant fascinating men who feel entitled to make demands and heap abuse on woemn who don't meet them.  Orfeo's was an intense and impressive  staging, but I was not wholly absorbed.   I was remembering working on the script when I was very young-- and thinking at the time I was miscast as Helena and would have found Alison a more comfortable fit.  Now, I can see what it is about Helena that is more me-ish, though Helena's facade is so utterly unlike the woman I thought I was when I was 19 or 20 that the idea would have shocked me then.  Working on LBIA may have been in a class rather than a production. Although I remembered the plot and the sound of the words and and the shape of the scenes after all these years, none of it had the physical detail that a play usually retains for me if I've performed at least a short run before an audience.    Except for the ironing!  i do remember doing the ironing and trying to make it look "real".  When I saw Chris Hayes  (who just played the student actress opposite June's Olga Chekhova in "Russian Mast Class" ) as Alison ironing so badly, without a clue, I spent some considerable energy wondering whether it was an acting choice, showing a young woman raised by servants at home and in India-- or simply that ironing is now done so infrequently that none of the young women connected to the production has ever learned the technique.    Hopefully they needn't have learned the "lesson", either.   I would have stayed for the talk back to congratulate the director and actors, and even asked about the ironing, but the Factory Theatre's noisy air conditioning had to be turned off for the performance and between the heat and intensity and the late hour we were just too exhausted.

Carolyn Clay reviews LBIA in the Boston Phoenix

..."Gabriel Kuttner helms the period-faithful production on Cristina Todesco’s old-furniture-crammed set in a space so small that the testosterone-fueled fisticuffs, linguistic vitriol, sexual steam, and little-boy-lost remorse spill out over the audience like splashes from that non-existent kitchen sink....  And the performances are nicely calibrated to the space, so that you feel the friction of tight quarters but no one appears to be overacting.

The drama crackles despite its creaky three-act structure and vivid verbosity, and Daniel Berger-Jones (of Company One’s Mr. Marmalade) wrestles manfully with the problem of Jimmy, who, like compulsive theatrical misanthropes from Shakespeare’s Timon to Molière’s Alceste, both has a point and is hard to take. Scathing in company, he finds cruel satisfaction in humiliating his wife, who for him represents the enervated rapaciousness of her class. Tender in private, he turns to her for comfort, indulging in a marital game of bears and squirrels (also hard to take) in which the two pretend to be furry animals fleeing the pain of being human. Berger-Jones’s surly, soulful Jimmy leaps out of the small space, waving his natural superiority like a red flag, defying the other characters and a world that refuses to give him his due.  

Liz Hayes..  rises wrenchingly to the final scene, in which she describes to Jimmy the crucible he has always wanted to put her through. Two-time Elliot Norton Award nominee Georgia Lyman brings a cool containment, albeit one that melts down convincingly, to angry-young-man poacher Helena.... Risher Reddick makes a compassionate if occasionally slack Cliff..."

 Steven Barkhimer rounds out the cast as Alison's father, and is such a presence that one rather wishes this long play were even longer and had more Steve Barkhimer in it.

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