February 19, 2009

Been Busy

So, yeah, I've been away a while. All is well.

Just wrapped "The Cherry Orchard" at WSC; billed as the last performance at Clark St, it more than likely won't be. The bank that was financing the redevelopment of the area went bust, and the Arlington Arts Council's budget was slashed. The vote is coming soon on the proposed renovation of the empty former Newseum space in Rosslyn which would potentially be WSC's new home. WSC's Board is resolute and our fingers are crossed, but I fear at least one more sweltering summer and frosty winter in the warehouse.

Since April '07 I've done seven productions, of which six were at Clark Street, and I feel like the directions from my house to there is now encoded in my midbrain. I accepted a role in American Century's "Native Son," and I hope I don't forget not to drive out to Crystal City.

Early in the Cherry Orchard rehearsal process, the cast and crew went up to NYC to see the "The Seagull" on Broadway. I doubt I'll see a better production of a Chekhov play in my lifetime. It was also my first time back in the Big Apple since I moved out in May '04, and I forgot what an energizing experience it is. I'm beginning to hear the siren call, and it's tempting. I'm going back March 2-8 with Al, to see more shows. I'm dragging him to Uncle Vanya (directed by Austin Pendleton, my old acting teacher), and he's dragging me to see Billy Elliott. He'll be working the Chelsea Art Fair while I go off to see the Bridge Project's production of The Cherry Orchard at BAM Harvey (NYC apparently has gone Chekhov crazy).

Oh yeah, Al. Did I mention Al? (sigh)

Went to Leagues. Used my standard monologue, from Pinter's "Silence." I do it well. Arena Stage called, inviting me to participate in their 10-minute student playwriting thing; a potential foot in the door, but my NYC trip made that impossible, alas. Got an upcoming audition for Rorschach's summer season next week. Fingers crossed.

Field Report: A Delicate Balance, Arena Stage

(Still alive and blogging.)

Saw Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" at Arena last night on a comp ticket. Not sorry I went. But like most productions from DC's Big Two (Arena and Shakespeare Theatre Co), they tend to mute down the emotional intensity as not to upset the (largely geriatric) audience, while amping up the production values so donors and subscribers would know how their money was spent. I commend the cast for not being thrown by the din of dropped change (you'd think everybody paid with pennies), snoring, coughing fits and listening device feedback.

As matriarch Agnes, Kathleen Chalfant, the big name in the cast, was even-keeled to a fault. The pointed barbs at milquetoasty husband Tobias, alcoholic sister Claire and quadruple divorcee daughter Julia were largely devoid of sting, almost as if she was marking it through; clearly and distinctly spoken, but flatlined. Of course, maybe it was a bad night. Still, being a Broadway star and all, pencil in her Helen Hayes nom next year. (I'm hardly objective but Audrey Adams who played my Agnes in the community production I directed 10 years ago was more effective.) Terry Beaver, though, does deliver as Tobias, particularly his Act 3 explosion, and the rest of the cast do just fine.

Like recognizing like, the audience had no trouble identifying with Toby and Agnes, giving harumphs of recognition at the minutae of the upper-class life that Albee was adopted into, but came away a bit befuddled by it all. What did it mean? "What is this 'terror' of which they speak," they mutter while their mutual funds and 401-K's evaporate. I found it utterly ironic that the most timely line in the play, when Julia demands that Agnes explain her displacement at the hands of Harry and Edna, was cut: "Don't they have a house anymore? Did the market go bust without my knowing it?" Ah, we can't upset the delicate sensibilities of our patrons, for whom art is not a mirror of the soul but something tasteful to hang over the setee. Another cognac? Why yes please.