Judith Lautner (judith) wrote,
Judith Lautner


Elaine and I saw a play last night, in the back of a magic shop - through a hidden door. The play is called "Savage" and is about the "savage" inside all of us. It tells the tale of a young man reaching the end of his tether, who somehow sees savages emerge from the trees behind his house, and learns from them how to act on instinct again. It is a goofy, sometimes very funny - not always intentionally - play, and the actors gave it their all. It was written by one of the minor characters in the play, who has also written a few other plays this group is producing.

The group presenting the play is called cockroach theatre. They do have a website, which offers information on performances, a couple of reviews to read, photographs from some plays. The group was born to produce new and neglected plays, something very few theater groups can do successfully. I am therefore delighted to have found them here. The theater groups in the SLO area rarely produce new works, usually do the tried and true. The few that have gone in that direction are currently defunct, in spite of having a small dedicated audience. "Small", I guess, is the problem.

"Savage" takes place inside a kitchen that sometimes transforms into a primitive land. When I first saw the "appliances" in this kitchen - aluminum-foil-covered frames with plastic handles - I thought surely they could have done better at the set design. They could have dragged in an old stove and fridge, for that matter. Later, though, I realized the limitations the real thing would have, as everything in the set gets beaten to a pulp. I have to admit to getting a particular pleasure from seeing food messes and active destruction on stage. It has to be done again and again,every performance, so I somehow enjoy it all the more, knowing how the stage crew has to put it all together and clean it up again for the next night.

The action in this presentation is accompanied by original music that, to me, suited it very well. The actors were well cast and did well in their roles. It wasn't the kind of show one goes to Las Vegas to see, but it was certainly the kind of show I have been looking for here. Not a great piece of writing but decent enough, and a gutsy group to pull it off. I hope to hear more of this group, see more.

The play is being performed ten times, which seems like a lot to me for an original work by an amateur group. The theater is small, dark, the usual venue for this type thing. It was less professional than what I used to see from Centrepoint Theater in SLO - but the group is young, the venues vary.

The nature of the production underscores the sad fact of today: people rarely go to see new, original works on the stage. Many people have never been to a play, and those who have tend to see the musicals, the old war horses, rather than anything new and fresh. I often wonder why. I think some people are afraid they might not like it! Yet they'll go to a movie and not like that and survive the ordeal.

Plays are not the poor cousins of movies. Plays emphasize imagination and words, not action and special effects. Some movies do the same, but a film can never give a live performance. As with music, there is a change, an enlargement, a sense of "now" that can only happen with a live performance. I find it sad that this mode of drama has taken such a back seat to the flashy, the big stars, the expensive movie productions.

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