Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Beyond ADMIRABLE with Andrea

This past weekend had been a true delight.

My phone photo
I’d been in the company of one of my favorite people, the illustrious Andrea Jones, author of the Hook & Jill Saga.  And like I say about the Fairy Council in my novel, we didn’t meet for any small affair.   Besides the grand occasion of getting together to talk about Peter Pan face to face, we attended a performance.  Not just any show, but one of Barrie’s!  No, not his work that overshadows all the rest.  Rather The Admirable Crichton, a comedy predating the infamous eternal boy in 1902.

Andrea brought it to my attention that it’s being performed up in Wisconsin.  After a ‘Jeepers, why don’t we go?’ which became a ‘Why not, why waste this opportunity?’ and a comparison of schedules, we joyfully realized it would come to pass.   It would be quite a drive, but by golly, we were up for it.  After all, all we really wanted to do is talk shop anyway, right?

The American Players Theatre, an outdoor theatre literally in the woods, staged the marvelous social commentary.  Quite marvelously.   We had great seats, too.  Andrea scored front row!

I’d have to say what Andrea and I agreed upon as our favorite aspect has to be a rewrite of the play.  Zounds!  How could a rewrite be good?  Rewrite might be too strong a word.  You see, it incorporated Barrie’s stage directions.  What a wonderful idea!  For his stage directions are some of the most salient bits, with a humor and knowing all their own.    One only needs to start reading the play from the beginning and this becomes immediately apparent:  

A moment before the curtain rises, the Hon. Ernest Woolley drives up to the door of Loam House in Mayfair. There is a happy smile on his pleasant, insignificant face, and this presumably means that he is thinking of himself. He is too busy over nothing, this man about town, to be always thinking of himself, but, on the other hand, he almost never thinks of any other person. Probably Ernest's great moment is when he wakes of a morning and realises that he really is Ernest, for we must all wish to be that which is our ideal.

Thus, the clever folks at APT present these words just as they are over the sound of a car pulling up, a gate and the like – with the actor coming down through the audience aisle.  All throughout the play, but perfectly peppered and careful not to intrude, the pleasant and calming voice of David Frank in the role called “Speaking for Mr. Barrie” did precisely that.  I adore bringing his extra wit to light.  Andrea agrees. But would you believe they took it one step further?  They actually did write new material for it!  Andrea looked it up afterward, and to be sure, they created a stunningly convincing and perfectly in tune addition at the end – by way of this Narrator.  A nice touch that didn’t undermine the impact of Barrie’s ending nor did it change it.  Rather it seamlessly wrapped it all up given their conceit.
Naturally we must commend the actors and crew.  A top notch performance by all.  From the very start it became clear that these folks truly “got” Barrie’s humor and knew how to walk his fine line.  Bravo to director Kenneth Albers.

The set proved just as clever, with unfolding panels unleashing jungle scenery – oh, if you’re not aware, The Admirable Crichton has aristocrats finding themselves shipwrecked on an island (Barrie’s fond of those) and Crichton, the butler, naturally knows what to do… or does he?  At any rate, the staging is first rate.  I especially like the set dressing for the island home.  It all had a whimsical quality, including the English estate, which is an asset and hallmark in any Barrie work.

I must remark on an “uh-oh moment.”  During one of the more serious private exchanges between two characters, the strong breeze one toppled a flat set piece decorated like a stone urn planter, crashing from its platform to the stage.  The actors, in true form, ignored it.  The show must go on!  Then, when more characters arrived someone naturally picked it up and replaced it with little attention drawn.  But… yes, CRASH again later on – thanks Nature.  Hats off to Crichton (James Ridge) who, while the play went on, came onto the stage as nonchalantly as could be and carried off the offending set piece with a sigh, all while fully in character.  Well played.

What an absolute treat to see one of Barrie’s plays performed!  Both Andrea and I could not stop reveling in this good fortune, especially one so artfully done in such a lovely place.  Neither of us had ever seen a Barrie play (other than Peter Pan) and we couldn’t have asked for a better companion for the first!

O ye who appease the god Dionysis… heed this advice:  Do not overlook Barrie!  If you’re looking for that next great play to produce, check out his body of work.  You can’t be disappointed.

The Admirable Crichton runs through October 6.  If it’s within your grasp, both Andrea and I recommend you go.

That’s enough for now.  I’ll write of the truly unbelievable incident Andrea and I shared in another post.  Not to mention the rest of our latest awfully big adventure.


Reed Cockrell said...

You probably saw another piece of added dialog just before intermission, when "Mr. Barrie" asks the audience to imagine the scene fading to black. This is used for the matinees, but is unnecessary for the nighttime performances!

Peter Von Brown said...

Reed -
Ah! We did indeed! Thank you for bringing it back to mind. Andrea and I enjoyed that bit as well. Amusing. At that point we were too wrapped up into the moment, relishing in the excellence of the show to chat about comparison to the actual play. (That came on the car ride to her home.) Can't believe I forgot that part - oh, wait, yes I can. For I am ever too much like his most famous boy. So again, I appreciate your reminder.

And thanks for stopping by!