Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Illustrated Bradbury—Arena Stage at Theatre/Theatre—SE Portland

Echoes of Bradbury…Running
Rob Cannon,
Graphic Artist
rob@dhxadv.com

This one-man show, starring theatre veteran, Tobias Andersen, is written by Ray Bradbury (based on selections from his novels and short stories) and directed by David Smith-English.  It will play at 7:30 pm through April 7th at the theatre’s location at 3430 SE Belmont St.  For more information and reservations call 503-593-1295.

All stories start with an idea.  But it cannot be browbeaten into existence.  “Under such treatment, of course, any decent idea folds up its paws, turns on its back, fixes its eyes on eternity, and dies” (Just this side of Byzantium by Bradbury).  Technically, most people can write, but not everybody is a storyteller.  In this regard then, Bradbury is a storyteller extraordinaire’.

If you have not partaken of the feast that is Bradbury—shame on you.  You are missing something important in your diet.  The most recognizable of his writings (mostly because films or plays have been made of them) are The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked Comes This Way and my favorite, Dandelion Wine.  And now we have Mr. Andersen, waxing poetic upon the boards, lovingly re-creating the digestible words of this prolific, poetic, progenitor of the written word.

Like Rod Serling and his Twilight Zone, most of his stories have a moral or message at the heart of them.  They exist in the world of Fantasy, as it alone allows a sense of freedom to explore all possibilities of existence.  But, as far-out as his stories seem, he has dipped his pen into his heart and writes with blood.  We can all identify, if not agree, on his views of life.  His writing is universal, as was Shakespeare’s, and that’s what will make him immortal.

A play, to do justice to all the thousand of stories/characters he created, would take weeks to portray on the stage.  But this selection does give a good cross-section of his works.  The tales seem to emanate from a tattooed man that a stranger meets on the road.  His body, seeming to write prophetic stories on its flesh, of those who stare too long at it.  And, thus, these few tales take life.

The Murderer concerns a man who has committed a great crime, he has murdered all the…electronic gadgets that seem to be controlling his life.  This was written in the 50’s, about a future world of constant noise, interruptions into one’s normal life, of electronics that are continually giving information, intrusion and interruption of the natural rhythm of living.  Any resemblance to current affairs is entirely…intentional.

The Foghorn is concerned with the lonely keeper of a lighthouse that, when activating the foghorn, discovers an eerie answering cry out of the depths of the ocean…from the age of dinosaurs.  A love-struck animal looking for its mate?  The Inspired Chicken Motel is based partly on a true story of his family moving around during the Depression, looking for work.  Instead they find a hen that lays an egg with a prophetic message on it for them:  Rest in Peace; Prosperity is Near. 

Other stories include an Irishman who finds sport in sprinting from a movie theatre before the national anthem is played; an old woman who refuses to die and promises to wreck havoc on her keepers if she isn’t returned post-haste to her body; and Hemingway’s parrot, who just might hold an unpublished novel of his in its brain.

More include the Fire Captain (from Fahrenheit 451, a role Andersen originated onstage) declaring that people themselves have rid us of our books because of the MTV mentality of switching ideas so quickly it doesn’t allow us time to think about anyone of them in any depth.  A world in which facts give us data, but no meaning behind it.  A world where Intellectual is a swear word.  A world, perhaps, not of Fantasy anymore, but of reality?!

Also included is a story about a man who invents a time machine which goes into the future…or does it?  And the final conclusion, a religious earthling who, building a Temple on Mars, discovers that the old race has found peace, harmony and happiness by divesting themselves of material connections, so has no need any more of such trappings.

The relater/portrayer/inhibiter of this menagerie of Bradbury writings is a theatre icon himself, Tobias Andersen.  He engulfs the 15 or so characters he enacts.  He slips easily from an Irishman, to an old lady, to a Florida detective, to a futurist scientist, et. al. with such ease that you don’t even notice that it is only one actor creating this smorgasbord of delightful, tempting creations.  It is a show, a performance, for the ages.  Look, Listen and Learn from the Masters, Mr. Bradbury and Mr. Andersen.

I believe if Tobias peered very closely at a patch of bare skin on the Illustrated Man, he would not only see a reflection of his visage appear, but a blended one with Ray.  Bravo!  I would highly recommend this show.  If you do choose to go, please tell them Dennis sent you.