Friday, April 23, 2010

Show #21 "An Iliad" at Seattle Repertory Theatre

I really do understand why theatres choose to do one-person plays. They're cheap to produce. After viewing the production of "An Iliad" at the Seattle Rep last night, I could easily see where the savings took place.

The show was performed on a rather bare set. The only things that were on stage were things that were already hanging around the theater: a tall ladder, a simple table and chair, a mop and bucket, a shelf of old paint cans.

Actor Hans Altwies' props included a worn suitcase, a liquor bottle and a drinking glass. His wardrobe consisted of something the costumer most likely pulled from their storage closet.

Simple. A producer's dream.

But was it an audience member's dream? I think not.

My dear hubby Randy said it was one of his favorite shows he has seen in recent memory at the Rep. I had a hard time staying awake and focused.

Randy joined other theatre-goers in the standing ovation. I was glad it was finally time to go home.

Maybe it's just me, but I am having doubts about this trend of local theatres putting on one-person shows. "Namaste Man" and "The Year of Magical Thinking" at the Intiman and "The Night Watcher" at the Rep all had me underwhelmed.

Sure, some of these performers were more engaging than others, and I will admit that Mr. Altwies was by far the most engaging of them all. My hat is off to him.

But, it wasn't enough. Yes, in a good theatrical piece, I look for a compelling story and an interesting exchange of ideas (An Iliad had this), but I also look for relationship and dialogue. A singular performer has a difficult time filling in this gap for me.

There is another reason I don't really like one-person shows. I enjoy Seattle theatre because I love watching Seattle actors. I like to see my favorite professional actors play another part in another play. Part of me wants to think it is possible for these marvelous professionals to make a living in this town.

With shows that only have a cast of one, that isn't much of a casting call.

Everyone's budget is tight, I know this. (I work for the public schools, so I see it everyday.) But filling a season with a ho-hum assortment of plays with smaller and smaller casts is like putting more and more students into a teacher's class. It might save money, but it doesn't meet some people's needs as well.

No offense to Mr. Altwies' fine work. He acted his heart out for us. And he's one of those Seattle actors I enjoy seeing play another part in another play. Really, he is. But, will someone please cast a co-star (or two) to share the stage with him???

Graphics courtesy of Seattle Repertory Theatre

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