Thursday, July 26, 2007

Stretch: A Fantasia, New Georges' Ice Factory Workshop

UPDATE: Friend e-mailed me to point out that I made a very stupid mistake and credited this play to Sarah bernfield, when it is in fact Susan Bernfield. Major apologies for carelessness! I have corrected it. I looked at the program while writing this, too! Need to get my eyes and brain checked.

Saw Susan Bernfield's Stretch: A Fantasia at the Ohio Theater on Friday. This is the New Georges workshop in the Ice Factory 2007 summer festival from Soho Think Tank. Unfortunately, it has closed, or else I would HIGHLY recommend it! I thought it was wonderful. I am hopefully that it will be produced soon.

Went by myself and took some notes on the first half or so of the play in my journal, until Susan (I think, might have been director Emma Griffin?) came up to me in the middle of show and whispered that she thought I was disturbing the actors by writing and would I kindly put my notebook away. (!!!) I complied and felt guilty thereafter if the actors stumbled on their lines-- although they did this extremely rarely (maybe three times in the whole show that I noticed) and I afterward thought it a bit odd that I should be blamed for their actors calling "line" once or twice-- especially since there was a curtain speech at the beginning where the audience was told this was likely to happen. And I don't think I was obtrusive. One of the downsides of trying to make your blog interesting!

Anyway, strange happenings aside, the play is a delightful memory play accompanied by original musical underscoring. It centers on Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s personal secretary from his congressional career to his presidential downfall. She is now in a nursing home, brooding and dreaming fitfully on her historic past and refusing to engage in the contemporaneous 2004 presidential elections that are mobilizing the rest of the rest home residents to political action. She is also learning to relate to a slacker druggie young man employed as her caretaker. The play was accompanied by an orchestra that had a typewriter as one of the percussive instruments- fabulous! That was the coolest thing ever. Kristin Griffith was phenomenal as Rose—picture perfect in a cute 60’s sheath dress and managed the complex and detailed direct address monologue with total grace and lovely presence. I take full responsibility for the couple of times she called for line (which were not really noticeable at all) because I am a worthless audience member. Particularly loved getting to hear Rose’s fictionalized opinions on Condie Rice and Karen Hughes as an old-guard Republican woman commenting on the new-guard. And her frank opinions on desire for power and the presidential office (“Heck of a lot to go through being president if power’s not your thing.”) seemed refreshingly honest. Timothy Sekk’s character of the slacker orderly also had a wonderful moment that I thought was extremely resonant where he tells his bud a dream about climbing an Elm tree as a child. He falls and breaks his leg and then remembers that the City removed the tree years ago when it succumbed to Elm’s disease. This seems to be a wonderful metaphor for his character’s struggle to understand the larger themes challenging his patient Rose, like: shelter, rise to power, fall from grace, and abandonment. Loads of intricate and detailed history went into the play and the language was just gorgeous. Particularly liked the subtle touches—Rose hates peas and bemoans the sweetness of peaches- because both foods are contained in the word “impeachment.”

Felt a little shut out by the end scene, which was going for naturalistic and poetic, I think, but hit closer to ‘obscure’ for me. And I was a little disappointed by what a thorough slacker loser the Orderly was throughout most of the play. His scenes with his Bud were extremely well-played Adam Rapp-style aimless 20-something vaudeville routines for the most part. And I think the youth of America was actually pretty highly politicized (well, relative to other American generations) in 2004. Maybe that’s a fantasy on my part. Also, I really don't think the title is good enough for the play. It is hard for me to remember (I keep wanting to call it Sketch) and doesn't seem resonant with the brilliant text.

I thought it was a great show and am sure you will be hearing more about it as it thunders along to great acclaim.

1 comment:

Antonio said...

Hey Johnna,

Do you know this play just opened last week at The Living Theatre?

Would you be interested in reviewing it for The Fab Marquee?

Let me know.-