Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Figurations"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark


by Ted Richer
Directed by Maggie Dietz

Set Design by Jeffrey Jones
Lighting Design by Kevin Kidd
Costume and Prop Design by Maria Brandt and Emily Brant
Music Consultant David Bell
Production Manager Steve Kidd
Stage Manager Eric Vogt


Todd Hearon
Jeff Peterson
Erin Bell
Kim Crocker
Peter Brown

The Bridge Theatre Company are special people. They have never had money, but they've endured, and their dedication to the arts of theater has been obvious everywhere in their choices of plays, and the attention to details in production. They have a serious respect for the words --- perhaps because one of their founding members is a playwright. And all of their dedication shines through their new production: "Figurations" --- a stage presentation of 18 linked vignettes by poet Ted Richer that previously had been heard only over BBC Radio and never staged. These terse, enigmatic and evocative examinations of the poet's experience of life, love, art, and dying hover in the mind long after the stage goes dark.

Richer's playlets spiral around these subjects, often repeating sentences or exchanges. The poet "enters the action" to repeat a gesture, ask a question, get an answer, then withdraws to write and re-write and re-enter the action again. The litany "have you ever loved? are you in love? do you love me?" are asked, first by one lover, then by the other, with inevitable answers in doubt till they are uttered. The narrator often describes interchanges, mouthing words along with the protagonists with "I said" attached. The mood is mostly quiet, contemplative yet intense. And the audience is asked not to interrupt the flow of these pieces with applause till the hour and twenty-minute presentation ends. The occasional bursts of spontaneous, insightful laughter however are permitted, and genuine.

Audience and players face one another from two corners of the BCA's Black Box. Jeffrey Jones has given the play an angle of two high platforms that function as a writer's studio stage-right and a writing-table stage-left connecting to sofa-bedroom at the back. A long muslin curtain can serve as a wall or, at one point, as screen for a shadow-play. At the center of the angle, the platforms create another playing-space that can be another room.

The performance is measured and meditative, with pauses and repetitions and variations, the shifts in attention from "The Writer in The Story" to "The House of Fiction" to "In Other Words" to "Writing" announced and demonstrated. Characters are not identified, playing almost mythically generalized roles. The cumulative effect is intense.

For the final piece, a pair --- Todd Hearon and Kim Crocker --- hear and identify Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings", characterize it as funereal, yet, wondering if it should be proper, end the production dancing, slowly and lovingly, to funeral music. It's a perfect metaphor for the entire production.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Todd Hearon's new play "Wives of the Dead" won the 2000 Paul Green Playwrights Prize

"Figurations" (till 24 March)
Black Box, Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide