Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I forgot to mention another opening last weekend, the dramatization of Charles Darwin’s life that Doug Jones wrote for the Science Museum called “Endless Forms Most Wonderful.” If you and/or your kids are on spring break and wondering what to do, a trip to the Science Museum is always good for a half-day or more of fun.

And before this one slips my mind, AART is opening “Steel Magnolias” this weekend at Pine Camp. I believe that this is a revival of Living Word’s 2006 production but I’m not sure if it’s got the totally same cast.

So the following is a little bit more about “Normal.” I should warn you that there are some details of the show discussed and, while I’ll try not to spoil anything, if you don’t want to know anything at all about the show, I wouldn’t read on. Consider yourself warned!

It occurred to me the day after seeing this show that it is a little bit like those horror movies where you feel like yelling at the characters on the screen, “don’t go back into that abandoned house!” or “don’t get out of your car!” only in a family-dynamics kind of way. You want to yell at Gayla, “put down the blow dryer and LISTEN to your daughter!” or yell at Robert, “grow a freaking spine!” And yet, the characters go down their fated paths and you KNOW disaster is waiting for them.

Now this is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, the horror formula has worked for decades and continues to work. And there is no denying that you feel great sympathy for the Freeman family and the seemingly intractable situation they find themselves in. But for me, that sympathy was undercut by frustration at the characters for making what seemed to me like obviously bad choices.

It was also helpful to me in figuring out how I felt about “Normal” to compare it with “Rabbit Hole” that just closed at the Firehouse a while back. Both productions were/are compelling but also confounding. I’ll talk about that more later but my small window of time for blogging today is closing quickly.

But before I go, I’ll say a little bit more about Zachary – an excellently drawn character wonderfully rendered by Dave Amadee. I love that a late-teenage / early 20-something guy is shown as the most emotionally engaged member of the family. He’s the one who tries most directly to break through to Polly, he’s the one who gets frustrated enough with his dad to literally try to push him into action, and his song about his mom – though too self-consciously and sometimes annoyingly full of “like” teen-speak – was a highlight of the show for me. In the whole show, the scene where I felt most personally wounded was where Zachary ends up on the receiving end of a particularly callous remark. Even days after seeing the show, remembering that scene feels like a punch in the gut.

Which is certainly indicative of some powerful theater. Difficult at times, and challenging, but definitely powerful.

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