ANOTHER DEAL IS MADE WITH THE DEVIL IN THE ROGUE THEATRE'S PRESENTATION OF "THE SEAFARER"
photo by Tim Fuller
All eyes are on Mr. Lockhart. They are (from left) Matt Walley, Robert Anthony Peters, Ryan Parker Knox, Aaron Shand and Joseph McGrath.
We always like to think Hell is such an unpopular place the Devil must spend an inordinate amount of time going about disguised as an innocent human so he can trick stressed out real humans into making their own desperate deals with the Devil.
The deal is always the same – he (the Devil) will save the human from some immediate threat in return for the promise to come back later and claim the person's soul for eternal damnation.
Irish playwright Conor McPherson takes this beloved bit of lore and weaves from it a delightfully confrontational lesson about the permanence of a promise in “The Seafarer” running through March 19 at The Rogue Theatre.
McPherson is successfully tilling the traditional soil of fragile Irish Catholic souls caught in the net of alcoholic delirium, with no idea how to free themselves or do much of anything except have another drink.
To me, the fondness of laughing at these figures is akin to the American enjoyment for making fun of hillbillies, red necks and anyone else from Appalachia. These rural types aren't bad people, they just have a different way of looking at things.
McPherson uses all of the first act to create a hilarious Christmas Eve gathering of three friends in their early 40s determined to drink themselves into a holiday spirit of good cheer to all.
There is voluble Richard (Matt Walley), accidentally blinded a year ago while rummaging through a dumpster; his younger brother Sharky (Aaron Shand), the de facto caretaker of Richard; and Ivan (Ryan Parker Knox), a friend equally stymied by the requirements for living a more responsible life.
They are joined by sort of a friend Nicky (Robert Anthony Peters), who is a little better set financially, and the intimidatingly dressed Mr. Lockhart (Joseph McGrath), so proper in a black suit, black hat and black overcoat, all emphasizing the brightness of his red tie.
The cast, directed by Christopher Johnson, is precisely timed, practically choreographed, moving about the stage to reflect their wandering minds. We are easily caught up in their antics and ineffectiveness.
Ivan has not only misplaced his glasses, but also his car. He can't seem to find it anywhere. Sharky, in a burst of misplaced enthusiasm has decided to stop drinking over the Christmas holiday. That decision isn't going well, either.
Walley gives the performance of his life making Richard the crankiest and also most touching of this lot, determined to survive any hardship coming his way, just by opening another bottle.
As we wind through Act Two, we learn it is the tradition of these friends to play poker all night on Christmas Eve, so they obligingly invite Mr. Lockhart to join them.
Sharky thinks the strange gentleman somehow looks familiar. They share a compelling scene together as Mr. Lockhart teasingly reminds him of the event 25 years ago when they met in jail in another town. Sharky had been charged with murder, but then the jailer suddenly set Sharky free.
“I arranged that,” said Mr. Lockhart, a sudden chill frosting the air.
His memory shaken, Sharky quakes in fear. Quickly this tension is broken by the returning friends, full of good cheer because they chased away some “winos” in the street. But there is much more to be revealed.
“The Seafarer” continues through March 19 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays, at The Rogue Theatre in the Historic Y, 300 E. University Blvd.
Tickets are $42, student rush $15. For further details and reservations, phone 520-551-2053, or visit www.TheRogueTheatre.org
The theater's COVID protocol strongly recommends wearing masks in the theater.
THE WORLD PREMIERE PRODUCTION OF "PRU PAYNE" BY ARIZONA THEATRE COMPANY IS A HUGE SUCCESS
photo by Tim Fuller
Gus (Gordon Clapp) the retired school custodian and Pru Payne (Mimi Kennedy) a sophisticated media personality are both suffering memory loss, but they do enjoy the present with each other.
A rousing standing ovation immediately greeted the opening night performance by the Arizona Theatre Company for its world premiere production of “Pru Payne” by playwright Steve Drukman, whose earlier play “Another Fine Mess” was nominated for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
"Pru Payne” was also a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation's New Play Awards for 2022-2023. Cast in the title role is veteran actor Mimi Kennedy, best known for her extended television appearances over several seasons in “Mom” and “Dharma & Greg.” Her films include Woody Allen's “Midnight in Paris.”
Playing opposite Kennedy is the equally experienced Gordon Clapp, who appeared as Detective Greg Medavoy in all 12 seasons of “NYPD Blue.” His film credits include “Eight Men Out” and “Matewan.” He plays garrulous Gus, who also has an adult son, Art (Greg Maraio).
Pru is described as an esteemed critic widely recognized as a wit, a scholar and a public intellectual. Sophistication could be her middle name. Her adult son Thomas (Tristan Turner) has always lived in his mother's shadow.
But now their roles are changing, as we quickly learn Pru's memory seems to be fading and Thomas is leading her to hospital appointments with Dr. Dolan (Veronika Duerr). We also learn Pru would prefer to be called by her birth name, Prudence. But her public loves to call her Pru, so Pru it always is.
In the hospital's community room, Pru meets garrulous Gus. He's a retired school custodian who faithfully drove the bus on all the school's field trips. He is also losing his memory, but Pru is an audience for his stories. And she also admires his hands. He has no idea who Pru used to be. He prefers to call her Prudence.
As the playwright, Drukman wants to explore how much our past professional lives affect our own image of ourselves. Are we really who we are, or are we mostly reflections of what other people think we are.
Directed by Sean Daniels, Pru and Gus do all the heavy lifting in this tale of shifting identities, and do it beautifully. Kennedy is filling her performance with such delicate layers of nuance, we can almost see Pru's professional personality slowly leave her body.
The less she remembers who she was, the more she values what she is becoming, even when it also frightens her.
Gus is the down-to-earth practical one, unassuming, lacking any concern for Pru's fame or fields of interest. But he is an absolute expert for intuitively knowing what lost little children look like and sound like, which he responds to in Prudence.
Meanwhile their conversations gradually meet their feelings on a sliding scale of personal values while sharing TV shows, and the channel changer, in the community room. Mixed in with their comments are pop culture references from the 1980s to the 20-teens, including a jazz joke comparing Miles Davis and John Coltrane to Kenny G.
As Pru's mind forgets more, she begins to see the old television shows in new ways, with different values. Meanwhile Gus becomes more of a leader, encouraging Pru to live less in her mind and more in her feelings. Though both continue losing touch with their own versions of the past, they are growing to depend more on each other.
“Pru Payne” runs through March 25 in the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave., with performances at 7:30 Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays. For details and reservations, phone 833-ATC-SEAT or visit www.atc.org
Tickets are $25-$85. ATC's current COVID protocol recommends but does not require wearing masks in the theater.