Sunday, October 12, 2008

Play: Other People's Kids

The Night Watcher written and performed by Charlayne Woodard, directed by Daniel Sullivan, Seattle Repertory Theater, through Oct 26, 2008

So from one pole of American theater to the other. All The King's Men was large cast, epic plot, based on a classic book, cut down to a spare three hours, accounting department fretting over how many bodies go into the seats. The Night Watcher is small shiny at the other end, one woman show, personal in nature, with sparse set design and props.

And when the one woman is Charlayne Woodard, who returns for her fourth one woman show at the Rep, it is about as close to a lead-pipe cinch that you can manage. The Rep opens its season with a comfortable production that laughs and cries and works so apparently effortlessly. We caught our first of her shows back in 2000, and she was good then, and she is a guarantee for good now (OK, go check out her IMDB entry - you know you want to).

A self-described "blue-collar actress", Woodard goes into detail on her role as aunt and godmother for a small host of kids. She combines her own admittedly facile moments (buying a coat for a dog?), with a deep understanding of children and parents grown up from personal experience. Not fitting into the normal hierarchy of kids and grandkids, she is both wild card and confessor, first choice and court of last result. She spins out her tales freely with a dishy vibe and the ability to transform herself into her major characters at the drop of a chair.

I know from whence she is coming - the Lovely Bride and I have cats, not kids, and parts of our experiences parallel hers. But her world is much more sprawling from the size of family, and is a rich mine for her tales. There is darkness and humor and honesty in her tales, and it is infectious into the audience and a soft, sweet delight, neither pretentious nor preachy.

Its a good opening for the season, and worth seeking out.

More later,