Posts tagged ‘Lakeview’

PARTY TONITE for ANYONE who wants to CHANGE: Cherrywood at Mary-Arrchie

We are told quite early on in Kirk Lynn’s Cherrywood: The Modern Comparable that CHANGE is we’re in for (the play was written in 2004). And in we are, 50 audience members tucked neatly in against all four walls of a dilapidated flophouse or loft, waiting for 49 cast members to arrive and party their inhibitions off.

But as the play begins, there seem to be meager rations, little party, little likelihood of change, and little chance that these intensely anxious folks will ever experience something not completely in their heads. It explains a lot that these alienated, distracted, news-hating adult children are drinking ersatz wolf milk all night, half-joking/half-wistfully-hoping that they will become strong werewolves impervious to human pains. And for a while, that’s really all you get. Emotionally fragile but intelligent people argue about whether there has ever been a good rock band whose name begins with A, and argue about whether this is a cool party or not, and argue about whether it is cool to argue or not; but look at the door with birdlike apprehension everytime the doorbell rings to let in someone new.

Lynn’s structural experiment in Cherrywood is that none of the lines in the script are assigned to particular characters. It was up to director David Cromer and his massive cast to weave characters out of meager threads and snatches of conversations and the occasional rambling monologue. In the expert hands of Cromer and these 49 actors, this is legible rather than chaotic. Legible, but not linear. While one can follow all the threads with a little concentration, it requires multi-tasking. It reminded me of following several discussions on Twitter at once. Response is followed by non-sequiter is followed by contrarian comment.

So, the play starts with anxious young adults, unprepared for the big world, carrying on parallel self-conscious conversation snippets (just like at a party) that wander all over the place. It’s entertaining, particularly because all the eclectic characters remind us of most of the house parties we’ve ever attended. But thankfully, Cherrywood doesn’t wallow in this for 90 minutes. It just marinates in it for a bit before plopping everybody on the grill. There is something decidedly post-ironic at play here, as nearly every partier seems distinctly bored of being bored with everything; even bored with witty sniping rejoinders. And they’ve shown up at this party, perhaps seeking change, and they are going to get it.

If, like me, you like theater that surprises you, stop reading now to avoid the spoilers. Just go ahead and go see it. There are seven more performances between now and August 28th. There are way too many actors and designers and other creatives to mention in this blog, but you can see the online program here. With ticket prices as low as $13 for students and seniors, $18 general admission, Cherrywood is really one of the better theater values in town. And after you see it (or if you already have), tell us what you think in the comments.

On with the spoilers.

The navel gazing stops when that weird old guy that shows up at every party is shot in the hand, somehow, by nobody we can make out. A whodunnit unfolds, but it’s far more than a mystery. The gunshot catalyzes order out of chaos. Most of the party’s attendees are apparently unrooted, alienated, tribeless, and yet leadership must emerge if the mystery is to be solved. That emerging leadership, and willingness to be led, turn out to be far more important than the actual crime. Exits are closed and legal structures are invented, ad hoc, with mixed success. After a gun is found, a clever shell game of cardboard boxes both stows the gun away and redistributes power among all the party-goers.

Shortly, the inevitable pizza guy shows up. He’s a bit of a travelling revival preacher and charismatic cult leader, regaling rapt partiers with his story of advising the governor (on change, of course), doing miracles, and demanding disciples. And he gets them when he starts helping them pull their dreams out of boxes. This unexpected magical realism was great, because it surprised and delighted me. You can’t say that every time you see some magical realism in the theater. At the same time, the pizza guy has enough menace to make us wonder if he’s the pied piper here to steal the children or lead the lemmings off the cliff. Most of the kids are willing to jump, I think.

The emotional strain of these events is released in fantastic catharsis in some of Cherrywood‘s best moments, including a group dance that you really want to join. There are other moments like this, when you kind of wonder whether an audience member will interject and what will happen then. After 90 minutes of sitting less than an arm’s length from the actors, the line between them and us gets a little blurry. That couldn’t happen if there weren’t 49 actors squeezed onstage, squeezing us against the four walls.

This minor violation of the audience’s own space (or the audience’s violation of the acting space) wouldn’t work quite the same way without such a large cast. Likewise, the emerging community of characters, which still could become a Jim Jones style wolf-milk cult, seems more vital and relevant when they fill the room. They really need to burst out of their insular flophouse, and become the change they want to see in the world.


Foreclosure hits Mercury Theatre, Cullen’s

It hasn’t been getting any easier lately to be Michael Cullen. In addition to his health problems, now Ravenswood Bank has filed a foreclosure suit, Crain’s reports.

A benefit for Cullen is scheduled at the Royal George Theatre on April 19th.