Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Play's the Thing -- and I Enjoyed it!

May I take a break from drought and recall and be playful?

Last Saturday evening we saw “Recreational Living” at the Las Cruces Community Theater.
David Spence's play won a contest among former students of Mark Medoff. The prize was this production at LCCT directed by Mark.

I expected a good evening, because I know and respect Mark; but the performance was more fun that we'd anticipated.

Let's admit first that I'm an old curmudgeon who often leaves the theater growling.

Instead, I was more attentive than usual, with a smile on my face, and laughed a lot. So did my wife and our friends.

Spence and Medoff took risks in both play and staging – and were rewarded with constant audience attention and a lot of laughter. The actors, many of them high school kids, did a great job – a credit to themselves and to Mark.

Sure, some of the material was a little overdone, if you thought about it; but you didn't think about it,you just laughed. It was just plain fun, but also a useful reminder of how seriously we take our foolish selves and how diligently we build the personae we show our peers. Stick to those personae slavishly enough for long enough and we become them. Or we convince ourselves we're they, unaware that most everyone sees through them.

The play opens with an impassioned conversation in which a very mortified kid relates that he's just fainted in class and exposed the crack in his butt, and his best friend tries to reassure him the world hasn't ended.

My wife confessed at intermission that she'd worried we might be in for an evening of butt-crack humor that could become tedious, but was soon reassured on that score. My own reaction was that though the subject was patently silly, the two kids cared about it a whole lot, which made the opening a lot more engaging, a lot more quickly, than many plays in which the actors sort of mark time at the start, letting us get used to them.

It's a goofy and very human play. Thinking about the concept of “willing suspension of disbelief” I wonder this morning whether plays aren't even better when the “suspension of disbelief” isn't so “willing,” but is commanded by the production. Guess that's a long-winded way of saying I liked the play.

And I liked the day. A morning spent at the Farmers' Market acquiring fresh local food for the week and talking with friends. A delicious supper at SI Italiana (which buys local food, a plus for us) before the play. I like it here.

We'd also recently seen – and enjoyed – The Hothouse (directed ably by Algernon D'Ammassa) as well as Other Desert Cities. Algernon put his people through an exceptionally long rehearsal period for the potentially difficult Pinter play, and it paid off. Other Desert Cities is a good play, although we felt a couple of performances could have been better. 
Las Cruces has a rich pool of theatrical talent. (A stray shout-out to Douglas Hoffman in Deathtrap and Claudia Billings in Other Desert Cities.) Not every show's a winner. Too many musicals for my taste, and some other plays I'd rather have missed. But a lot to like, too.
I like the energy and imagination in Las Cruces Community Theater, the Black Box, and the ASTC at NMSU. All three are friendly and push each other's work – not cliquish, jealous rivals. The Hermans, who own and run the Black Box, are also Lifetime Members of LCCT. Actors appear in an LCCT show today and a Black Box production tomorrow.
Besides, recall and drought make one long to escape.

[The column above appeared this morning, Sunday, 29 March, in the Las Cruces Sun-News and will also appear on the KRWG-TV website.  It represents my views, not necessarily those of the newspaper or the television station.]
[I feel almost guilty neglecting all the bad news worth discussing in my Sunday column: the continuing misconduct of the folks pushing to recall three city councilors; the news that someone wants to build a new 90,000-personn city near Albuquerque, when we're in a savage drought; and much more.  I will note that it's highly possible that someone will file suit against the City of Las Cruces, perhaps as early as this week, regarding the Recall matter.  The City Clerk is due to issue her opinion on whether or not the folks seeking to recall Gill Sorg have turned in enough valid signatures to trigger a recall election.  It seems likely that if they haven't, they may sue her; and it seems equally likely that if she decides they have, but some of those signatures were fraudulently obtained, forged, or from unregistered voters who signed the petitions, or from folks who later learned it was a recall petition and asked the Clerk to withdraw their names, the folks who oppose the Recall could seek a court order that the City follow state law and the city charter.]
[Oh -- and I should mention the panel discussion this coming Thursday -- 5 p.m. Thursday, April 2nd, on NMSU's campus on the third floor of Zuhl Library -- and parking's free after 3, I think. "Police, Public and Press -- Shining Light on Officer-Involved Shootings" will look at the battle over release of relevant information after a police shooting.  Panelists should include District Attorney Mark D'Antonio, Walt Rubel of the Sun-News, Mike Kenney from DASO, NMSU Police Chief Stephen Lopez, lawyer Michael Stout, and Executive Director Susan Boe of NMFOG (a state non-profit fighting for open government),  I'll moderate.]

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