19 May 2014

"...hit him like a FREIIIIIIIIIIIGHT train..." (a review of THE TRESTLE AT POPE LICK CREEK)

I must confess something that regular readers of this blog will find surprising not in the least: that my most consistent nightmare is to wake up to find myself in some contemporary dramatic play.  While I may be more pollyanna-with-rose-colored-glasses-ish than most folk, I'm also undeniably glad I don't see my world as dark and alienating as do so many current playwrights.

Naomi Wallace's The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, which just ended a brief run at Playhouse on Park (as part of its mature-themed On the Edge Series), offers a place in which no one can love wisely nor well and all physical interaction is an unhealthy blend of distance, violence, and destruction.  Indeed, in this world, if, for some reason, your loved one can't hit you, you help them out by doing it to yourself.

It's a land where both the government and private industry have abandoned its people, and, bereft of that support, a similar abdication of responsibility filters down to families: wives and husbands, parents and children, boyfriend and girlfriend (if those are even the right words to describe our teen protagonists, Dalton and Pace, played with clarity and pathos by Wesley Zurick and Leslie Gauthier).

It's a place where, to find life, the young court death by playing chicken with a train that, unlike them, has the luxury of just passing through their sad little town on the way to somewhere -- anywhere! -- else, and where the grown-ups try to make their conversations matter by trying not to break dishes.

The good news is that Dalton's mother, Gin (played beautifully, yet powerfully, by Melody Gray), seems to find the strength to try to change her world -- no matter how few of those around her are willing (or able) to follow.  One cannot, however, even by play's end, be too convinced that her actions will amount to much, if anything, but the fact that she knows she must try is as "happy" as anything in this play gets.

The production was very, very good in every facet -- which is probably why I didn't like it so much.  As directed by Dawn Loveland, the characters' powerlessness was inescapable, and the small cast realized (i.e.,  "made real") that smothering emptiness. Richard Brundage (as Dalton's lost father) and Rick Malone (as another lost dad) were also effective in conveying their fears that they have/had nothing to offer their children. 

In short, the cast and crew are to be applauded for their powerful work, but, when the pain seems that real, it's hard to say, "Man, I really enjoyed that!"

But, then again, I'm Pollyanna.

12 May 2014

My new favorite Frank Sinatra reference; he IS everywhere.

From Phil Ochs' introduction to "Ringing of Revolution" from Phil Ochs in Concert (1966):

This song is so cinematic it's been made into a movie, starring Senator Carl Hayden as Ho Chi Minh.

Frank Sinatra plays Fidel Castro. 

Ronald Reagan plays George Murphy. 

John Wayne plays Lyndon Johnson, and Lyndon Johnson plays God. 

I play Bobby Dylan -- the young Bobby Dylan.

02 May 2014