Monday, November 21, 2016

The Kid Thing et al

Report on the Weekend

Charlene Baldridge
Photo by Ken Howard

Bodhi Tree’s production of Peter Rothstein’s All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 (November 19 and 20) was exceptional, absolutely sold out and musically fine. Many from San Diego Opera were in attendance, including people I’ve known for years, former employees, supporters, and also David Bennett, the newish artistic director, who seemed elated (San Diego Opera, FAB United and Sacra/Profana were collaborators). 

Performer/soloists, in period uniforms, were Walter DuMelle, Chad Frisque, Jonathan Nussman, Timothy Simpson, Michael Sokol, and Christoper J. Stephens, many of them Bodhi Tree regulars, including founder DuMelle. They were supported by nine men from Sacra Profana, Colin Barkley, Aaron Bullard, Aaron Burgett, Angel Mannion, Nicholas Root, Mitch Rosenthal, Michael Sparaco, Kurt Wong, and Paul Young, Jr.

The piece consists of a minimum of dialogue, mainly contemporary battlefield and literary citations and poems, traditional music of the season and also music from the WWI era, when the incident of spontaneous truce occurred in 1914. Thus we have “Minuit chrétiens (O Holy Night)” sung purely and lusciously by tenor Simpson, “Pack Up Your Troubles,” “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” “Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella,” “O Tannenbaum” and “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming)” some sung by all, some by the German soldiers, including soloists.

Acoustically the production worked  well, with Sacra/Profana (the Germans) in the main playing area (imagine a church), and featured soloists arrayed on a ramp house right and on various levels of constructed forestall. Breathtaking blend was achieved numerous times.

The soccer game that took place during the actual Christmas Truce of 1914

Photo courtesy of Bodhi Tree
Written by Peter Rothstein, All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 has musical arrangements by Erick Lochte and Timothy C. Takach, was developed and produced in 2007 by Cantus and Theatre Latté Da in Minnesota, and is sung entirely a cappella, conducted here by Juan Carlos Acosta, associate artistic director of Sacra Profana, and directed by Jacob Bruce. Proceeds benefitted the Veterans Museum of Balboa Park, where it was performed.

The Donald, Defender of 'Safe' Theatre

A recent Donald Trump tweet stated “Theater should be a safe and special place,” this in response to a post-performance Hamilton speech directed to vice-president elect Pence, who said on television the next morning that he was not offended, and loved the show. Trump apparently was offended on Pence’s behalf and said the show, which he, Trump, has not seen, is overrated.

What kind of theatre is safe theatre? As Ben Brantley pointed out in Sunday’s New York Times, the late, great Edward Albee believed the exact opposite.  I heard Albee address the purpose of theatre many times during his visits to San Diego, where he was a staunch supporter of Playwright’s Project. The purpose of theatre is to incite, inform and to inflame us to action. And as Moxie Theatre continually endeavors, to introduce those who would be complacent to ideas and people different from their own experience.

Thus I found myself Sunday afternoon (November 20), attending Moxie’s The Kid Thing, written by playwright, film and television writer (“I Love Dick”) Sarah Gubbins, who in 2012 was named Best Playwright by Chicago Magazine and received a Joseph Jefferson Best New Play award for The Kid Thing, which was developed at Steppenwolf Theatre and was awarded an Edgarton Foundation New Play Prize.

Anna Rebek, Katherine Harroff, Connor Sullivan.
Sarah Karpicus and Jo Anne Glover
Photos courtesy of Moxie Theatre

Jo Anne Glover and Sarah Karpicus
as Darcy and Leigh
It was a challenge to warm to the two lesbian couples that meet for dinner in The Kid Thing. Their conversation is exceptionally confrontational. The most outspoken is the truly obnoxious butch transvestite (great three-piece suits by costume designer Jennifer Brawn Gittings) named Darcy (a brilliant, precise performance by Jo Anne Glover). Darcy is a high-powered executive for an international public relations agency and is partner to the femme Leigh (Sarah Karpicus), who wants nothing more than to be a mother. The play takes place in their posh Chicago apartment (scenic design by Sarah Mouyal).

During the dinner party, the femme lesbian Margot and her affable, underemployed (Best Buy) butch partner, Nate (Katherine Harroff), produce a bottle of champagne and announce that “they” are pregnant. The sperm donor is Jacob (Connor Sullivan), who went to school with both Leigh and Margo and who just happens to be in town now. Jacob has completed his degree, spent some time living in Prague, is proud of his high sperm count, and is now addressing his future. He is perfectly amenable to the suggestion that he impregnate Leigh as well, creating a happy, interconnected family into which he can drop as needed. Darcy, for complicated reasons we learn only slowly, will have none of it.

My impression of the women, at least as directed by Kym Pappas and written by Gubbins, is that all drink a bit too much and are not really as settled and secure in their relationships as they would have us believe. By the end of the play I cared more about them, but I was still not fully convinced of their sincerity, worth and likability. The Kid Thing continues at Moxie through December 11.

As in Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart (through December 17 at ion theatre) the dominant character is abandoned by everyone at the end of The Kid Play. These performances, by Jo Anne Glover and Claudio Raygoza, respectively, are among the year’s best and should not be missed.

My review of The Normal Heart will run in a forthcoming issue of Uptown News. 

Happy turkey day to all!

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