Robert Smyth: Lamb's 12 most important shows (nine through 12)
Lamb's Players Theatre is currently staging its 300th production. Artistic director Robert Smyth looks back on the company's 12 most important ones.
9.) Art (2004). In Yasmina Reza's comedy-drama, a man buys a very expensive painting that's a large, all-white canvas. Is it "art?" He and two friends almost come to blows over the answer (Reza loves making volcanoes out of mole hills. In God of Carnage, which played at the Old Globe last summer, a minor negotiation between two sets of parents escalates into World War 19).
"Reza's a personal favorite of mine. She's both brutally honest and very, very funny." Smyth saw a staging that was neither. It was practically a theoretical treatise on aesthetics. "They didn't seem to know what they had. The play is really an exploration into the heart of friendship. It asks 'what matters most, the opinion or the friendship?' To save the friendship, sometimes you must sacrifice the opinion."
10.) Detective Story (2003). "All the cop shows we now have on TV need to pay homage to this piece": Sidney Kingsley's 1949 drama (and 1951 movie) about three hours at a police precinct.
"Such a treat to dive into this huge piece. It was a big production for us with an ensemble of 22.. Done very theatrically. Great roles for David (Cochran Heath) and Doren (Elias), and Mike Buckley's set worked great."
The play's gumshoe-tough realistic. But Smyth and Buckley decided to make the set subtly sur-realistic: all black, white, and gray, the lines in between smudged. "This put it in a different period, and gave colors, when they appeared, more value - at the end, in particular, when the blood appeared."
11). Metamorphosis (2005). Shakespeare probably read the Roman poet Ovid as much, if not more, as any other writer. Mary Zimmerman crafted a play from the classic poem about change. Her central image: a pool, on stage, which becomes a mirror for Narcissus, a wash basin, and the River Styx in the Underworld.
"We got to use a mythic style, and the pool was an amazing playpen from which to share the wisdom of Ovid's tales. The style speaks of things that are hard to speak about."
The production had a starkly minimal quality, with water, it seemed, everywhere (even from above). Plus an amazing eye-catcher: at one point Aphrodite drives Chrissy Vogle's character to commit suicide. Vogle steps into the pool, sinks down, disappears. And doesn't come back up.
12.) Harvey (2010). "Funny and wise. A perfect tale for our crazed culture. And perfect roles for company members Kerry Meads and David Heath."
Now part of Americana, most stagings these days treat Mary Chase's protagonist, Elwood P. Dowd, as either a hallucinating drunk or just a goofy comedic figure who pretends to see a six-foot three-and-a-half inch rabbit invisible to everyone else.
No, says Smyth. "It's about a man who wakes up. He steps off the fast lane. He looks around and sees what no one else can. He slows down, takes time to inquire. He pays everyone he meets genuine attention, including his sister Vera, who begins to awaken too.
"Harvey is a Puka: a playful spirit in Celtic legends that nudges people toward the truth."
More like this:
- Twelve days of license — June 11, 2014
- Robert Smyth: Lamb's 12 most important shows (five through eight) — Nov. 9, 2012
- Robert Smyth: Lamb's 12 most important shows (one through four) — Nov. 8, 2012
- Morality Mania — Oct. 25, 2007
- Lamb's Players Theatre – like a commune but... — March 15, 1990