Monday, April 29, 2013

Gathering Blue—Oregon Children’s Theatre—Winningstad Theatre—downtown Portland

Future World?
This play is based on the children’s book of the same title by Lois Lowry and adapted for the stage by Eric Coble.  It is directed by Stan Foote (OCT’s Artistic Director).  The show will play through May 19th at 1111 SW Broadway.  For further information go to www.octc.org or call 503-228-9571.

The world of the Future is almost always pictured as a desolate, despairing and depressing place by Sci-fi writers.  This play is no exception.  It is not to say they’re wrong in their assessments, but where is the Hope for a better tomorrow, the elusive Eden of yesteryear.  It may be, as the poet said, “The World is too much with us.” And thus, we are thrust, screaming, into our own Apocalyptic blankness.

Hints of Lowry’s world are glimpsed in Clive Barker’s book, Weaveworld or Shyamalan’s film, The Village.  But in the children, we see the light of brighter possibilities.  The child, in this case, is a young lady named Kira (Stephanie Roessler), who has inherited the Art of Weaving a robe that reflects the Past and will influence the Future.  She is lame and would have been relegated to the Bonefield, as all undesirables are, had it not been for this gift. 

She is housed in a special place called the Edifice, in which she is to work her wonders on the cloth, along with her boy-servant, Matt (Peyton Symes) and a Carver, Thomas (Jeremy Howard), who has the talent of writing, etching and reading.  Their keeper is a stern fellow named Jamison (Andres Alcala), one of the Guardians, leaders of this society.

In order to complete her task, she must learn colors from a wise old woman named Annabella (Camille Cettina).  But in order to complete the robe she must find the color blue, which does not exist in this world.  She discovers the reason for this is that blue represents Freedom.  And so, the search continues, in which they find an imprisoned girl, named Jo (Steele Clevenger), who has the gift of Song.

Matt dares the forbidden trek outside this town, in search of the magical blue coloring and finds a village housed with more misfits.  Kira’s mother, Katrina (Cassie Greer), had been killed, but he finds another family member of hers, Chris (Dennis Kelly), now blind, living there and brings him back.  The Truth and the color Blue may elevate them to a higher plateau and a better Life.  (Interesting note, the more syllables a person has in their name, the wiser they are considered to be.  Guess I’d be on the low end of their scale.)

The story gets a bit bogged down at times because of the vast amount of information it needs to share.  But Mr. Foote keeps the pace flowing with inventive and simple scene changes and a cast that is rarely static.  The designs of the set (Mark Haack) and costumes (Sarah Gahagan) are remarkable.  They give one the sense that you are really there.

A cast of eight does a wonderful job of playing multiple characters.  Ms. Roessler in the lead role is believable and quite convincing as a lame girl.  Ms. Cettina in a couple of very contrasting roles is quite the actress, giving the energy needed, as well as convincingly transforming.  And Mr. Alcala does nicely, as he gives an air of mystery to his character, in which one is never sure who he is or where he stands.

Most of the rest of the cast is equally good with the exception of Mr. Kelly, at times, who needs more of a sense of urgency, of animation, to his character.  He is a little too bland in a role that should be exploding with emotion.  But he has the right look and voice for the part.

I would not recommend this play for very young children, as it is pretty deep and complex and they might not grasp the meanings.  But I would recommend it for all others, as it is a thoughtful and well presented piece.  If you do choose to go, tell them Dennis sent you.