Saturday, August 8, 2015

anonymous theater

On Monday, Stephen and I will be seeing The Real Inspector Hound at the Gerding Theater. I'm so excited. With my editing the next short story anthology for Forest Avenue Press and our working to buy a house (!), this will be the first play I'll have the privilege of writing about in a long time. Now, we were lucky enough to have a chance to get out last Saturday and see a bit of Shakespeare in the Park—A Midsummer Night's Dream with the multitalented Kallan Dana as Hermia—but unfortunately, I just didn't have time to sit down and write a thorough post about it. But I will say it was a total delight, with a bit of modern spice thrown in, and lots of zaniness.

Interestingly, there was a tiny bit of parallel between A Midsummer Night's Dream and Monday night's The Real Inspector Hound. That is, of course, that both plays were written by Tom Stoppard. No. But from where we sat on lawn chairs in the park last Saturday, we had a good view of the back of a big guy in the audience sitting in his own lawn chair, laughing delightedly and periodically shouting something funny at the players on stage. Then in the middle of the proceedings, up he pops—and here was Puck, tricking us already by pretending to be an audience member.

The Real Inspector Hound is being put on by Anonymous Theater. I saw one of their productions once before and LOVED it. In an Anonymous Theater production, all the actors are sitting anonymously in the audience and you have no idea if you're sitting right next to one of the players until he or she suddenly pops up and delivers the first line from right there in the seats. No matter what play you're seeing, there's this added excitement that comes from the not-knowing—and also this lovely sense of inclusiveness, like the entire theater is part of the show.

The Anonymous Theater production I saw before was Macbeth and I was pretty sure the friend who invited us, the immensely talented Christine Calfas, was going to be in the show. Little did I know she was playing Lady Macbeth herself. It was a total thrill when she popped up and called out her first line, but the most interesting moment of the evening, beyond the beautifully presented play itself, was when the actor playing Macbeth jumped up from his seat in the house and Christine, still sitting next to me, let out a gasp and involuntarily pounded her chest with her fist because she was so excited to find out, right then and there, that the man she was playing opposite was an actor she knew and loved.

Yes, even the actors don't know who they're playing against. Which means they have NEVER rehearsed together. This is so fascinating to me. Rehearsals for The Real Inspector Hound have been going on two-by-two. Just one actor and director Darius Pierce, going through lines and blocking and only anticipating the rest of the cast. It's quite a feat to mount a production like this, and Anonymous Theater does it masterfully—giving you, in the end, a show that is amazingly tight but full of a freshness that comes from top-notch actors pushing their limits right in the moment.

If you're intrigued, check it out. Monday night at the Gerding Theater, 7:00. Along with The Real Inspector Hound, you get the ten-minute play On the Porch One Crisp Spring Morning by Alex Dremann. More information on Anonymous Theater is here

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