Monday, October 17, 2016

Eight Days, Three Plays

So, I didn't quite intend to cram three plays into eight days (and yes, technically one is a musical) but I with attempts to keep November a bit open due to impending NaNo things, I had tickets to two plays two consecutive Fridays, and then a discounted deal landed in my email and suddenly there we were.  
Arena Stage's "The Year of Magical Thinking" is based on Joan Didion's book of the same name, which I confess I have owned but not read for some time.  It was in Arena's Kogod Cradle, which suited the more intimate one woman show nature of it.  Kathleen Turner is, as you might expect amazing.  Her Joan speaks to the audience as she describes the events of the year of loss that Joan experiences.  The setting was a small apartment, and there was subtle staging done to indicate the passage of time.  It's a tough discussion, as you hear Joan discuss the use of plans and lists and hopes to ward off the grief.  
Also based on a book (that I have not read), that has been turned into quite a few movies is "Freaky Friday" premiering at Signature Theater. This version seemed to me to draw more from the movie versions, with Annabel and Ellie both trying to navigate each other's lives, and there are songs.  I loved the songs.  "Oh Biology" sung as Annabel (now with Ellie inside) realizes that it's super hard to sound competent while in a body that is raging with hormones and standing next to the cutest guy.  The actresses both did a great job as their original selves and being their swapped selves.  There were moments where the staging or the sound seemed a little rough - the program indicated the song list was subject to change.  None of it seemed unprofessional, just parts that were not quite there.  I was delighted to realize Adam (aforementioned cute boy) was from the original cast of "Bring it On" and I also recognized the actor playing the younger brother the night I saw it from another local production.  I enjoyed it a lot and hope that there's a cast album in the works. 
And back to Arena for "Little Foxes" which is an original play, albeit from the 1930's.  The short version is that it is a play about terrible siblings trying to both best each other and make use of post-Reconstruction conditions to set up a factory in their town with cheap labor.  (I saw "Sweat" earlier this year at Arena, also about factory labor, and also featuring actor Jack Willis, so it's almost a theme).  The couple next to me took advantage of the act breaks to discuss whether Regina (played with casual manipulation that grew creepier by Marg Helgenberger) was an anti-heroine or a villainness.  Most everyone in the play is terrible, ranging in degree from lazy to outright manipulative, so the audience is less rooting for a victor, and more hoping that the daughter who is one of the few non-terrible folks, can escape.  Isabel Keating played Birdie (wife to one of the siblings) - with an amazing blend of nostalgia, sadness, and mania that made me sad she was probably going to be increasingly harmed by the tug-of-war between the siblings. 
Ultimately, all three were enjoyable.  "Freaky Friday" is the one I am likely to wish to see again.