Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Uneasy in my Easy Chair, It Never Entered My Mind

You might not have guessed it, since I wrote a few blog posts in advance to be published while I was away--but the weekend of June 6 & 7, I took a brief trip up to Oregon. And I mean brief, as in "so brief I didn't even get a chance to go to Powell's." But I did get to see a play and hang out with theater people and be gobsmacked at how much cheaper drinks are in Portland than in S.F.

The play I saw was called The Uneasy Chair, by Evan Smith--presented by CoHo Productions. Kind of an offbeat comedy, set in Victorian London, that both avails itself of, and mocks, our stereotypes of the Victorian era and the dramaturgy of that time. It's very much in the Oscar Wilde/Gilbert & Sullivan vein: the plot is set in motion by a misunderstanding, laws get interpreted in absurd ways, characters are driven to do absurd things because of misplaced pride and a fear of society's condemnation. There is a very funny scene when all four of the main characters--spinster landlady Miss Pickles, retired soldier Captain Wickett, and their respective niece and nephew--meet for the first time, and each of them affects a personality that puts them at odds with everyone else. Still, even when the characters drop these masks and reveal their true natures, things don't get much better--for their true natures are stubborn, miserly, and narrow-minded. Ah, that's comedy!

The Uneasy Chair was produced in New York in 1998 and I think one of the jokes might even be funnier now than it was then. The climax of Act Two (yes, it's in three acts--how Victorian) has a judge refusing to annul the marriage of two people who obviously despise each other, because he believes in "the sanctity of marriage"--now that the struggle for gay marriage has made that phrase into a pundits' favorite, it got a big laugh.

Before the show and during intermission, I was having too good a time chatting with Mr. Mead to read my playbill, but when I got home and glanced through it, I learned that Evan Smith went to Vassar, and he won the Young Playwrights Contest! Just like me! I'm rather surprised I haven't heard of him, but it is encouraging to see that someone with a similar background to mine is making it as a playwright. I think I should try to get in touch with him, don't you?

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