Wednesday, February 9, 2011
PORT (Griffin Theatre Company)
There's this playwright in Ireland or England or something named Simon Stephens and there's this director from Detroit named Jonathan Berry. Berry thinks that Stephens is the best because Stephens talks about broken down towns and what it's like to grow up in abusive families or something.
I'm not really into that stuff, because I have a hard enough time going to the theatre, but then to see some 2 and a half hour long show about strife...it's just not really my cup of tea.
On the OTHER hand. Stephens makes plays that are really easy for actors to dig in to and lots of room for a director to put his stamp on it without too much tech and other bullshit to get in the way.
There is hardly any dance numbers or Saigon choppers to have to deal with, which also makes it ideal for the Chicago stage.
So Jon Berry's biggest strength is his ability to direct a scene. He is really glorious at it. He lets actors play around and you can feel his hand on every show he does. You can tell he really understands people's struggles because he has very sad big eyes and you want to just hug him and maybe give him 5 dollars for a blanket or coffee or something.
But do you know why you should see this play?
Caroline Neff. She plays the lead. This character named Racheal. This play takes place over the course of 80 years, so you see Racheal grow up, and eventually die of drug abuse in a car fire. Her performance is solid all the way through and she carries the whole thing on her shoulders.
The acting isn't lopsided by any means, all the performances are honorable. I particularly liked Andrew Swanson as this loser in the town named Danny.
John Byrnes is really good as this loser in the town who punches whole window panes out named Kevin.
In addition, Joey deBettencourt is super good, also as a rakish loser in the town named Billy.
This play takes place in Stockport, England so you are probably thinking, "What are the accents like there?"
Well, they were thinking the same thing and brought in the heavy hitter. Just as a general rule in this town: If you need an obscure accent from some very specific neighborhood in England, you call Elise Kauzlaric. She understands the nuance and subtlety of every accent that ever was in England. BUT SHE IS VERY EXPENSIVE. So get in touch with me and I will give you her personal phone number and some information to blackmail her into doing some work on your new turn-of-the-century South African colony drama.
I'm not afraid to tell you that I cried a little during this play. There are certainly moments that are easily identifiable to adults who have loved and lost and made mistakes that they regret, but then again, I cried at "Cats" because of the easily identifiable moments.
Jon Berry is a great director that you will probably need to know about in the future, so why not make this the first time!
Go see this great play by a remarkable company and sublime director and first-class actors and fantastic EVERYTHING!!!
-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach