Sunday, January 31, 2010

Balagan's Edmond haunting, fabulous

Balagan Theatre's staging of Edmond by David Mamet, directed by Paul Budraitis, is a marvelously conceived production, and Sam Hagen's portrayal of the title character is a theatrical tour de force.

Budraitis, who also designed the set, put the play right in our faces. The set was stark and simple, in the round. A table on a couple of cylinders served as everything from a bar to a prison cell. Small track lights, the sort of disc-shaped ones you might buy to stick under a counter top, and some bare light bulbs gave the set alternately dim and stark illumination. A pair of flat-screen monitors suspended above either end of the tables gave information I frankly mostly missed; there was too much interesting stuff going on to be watching the screens. Most of the actors were already seated in the front row of the theater, below the screens, when the audience arrived. They stayed there, in character, changing costumes, and narrating scene changes throughout.

Hagen was a huge revelation. Maybe we're just in post-Wisey mode, but my Sweetie, the official scorer, thinks he's a virtual shoo-in for a best-actor nomination for this year. There's a lot of time left, but it was a powerful and amazing performance. Edmond swings from boredom to rage to victim to victimizer to dork to murderer and has us riveted on every word. Truly marvelous.

The rest of the cast, most of whom played multiple roles, were great from top to bottom. I'll single out just a few. Carolyn Marie Monroe, fresh off a Wisey win as best actress for 2009, was super as Glenna, a waitress/actress whom Edmond murders. She just smoldered with anger for the rest of the show from her seat in the front row. Colleen Carey was smashing as Edmond's wife. When she visits Edmond in the big house after the murder, she doesn't have to say a thing; sadness, anger, rejection, loneliness and fear all play out on her face. And Ryan Fields turned in a performance alternately subtle and brutal, especially as Edmond's cell mate. Hats off to the entire cast for solid performances.

It occurs to Weisenheimer that we often partake of theater or film or literature looking for a character to like or to root for. There's really nobody to like in Edmond, with the possible exception of his wife, dumped by Edmond because of sheer boredom in about scene two. We hope she goes on to a better life. The rest of them are hustlers, pimps, thugs, cynics, peep show girls, hookers, charlatans, cynics, and jerks. Even the chaplain is a schmuck. Not an optimist in the bunch. Somehow in the end Edmond finally seems to be at peace with his lot in life.

The play is sad and disturbing and vulgar and somehow tremendously compelling. See it through Feb. 6 at Balagan.

Other reviews and resources:
Review in The SunBreak
Interview with Budraitis in The SunBreak
Review in the Seattle Times
The Onion: Mamet to direct Anne Frank
Review in Seattle Gay News

Full disclosure: Weisenheimer is president of the board at Balagan, but it doesn't mean I'm biased! Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross is coming to the Seattle Rep in February, so we have sort of a mini Mamet-fest going!

No comments: