Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Kid of Death

The K of D: An Urban Legend by Laura Schellhardt, Directed by Braden Abraham, Seattle Repertory Theatre through February 20th.

Before getting to the heart of the matter, a detour into the bidness side of show bidness. You'd think that holding season tickets might render you immune to the long touch of fund-raising for theater, but such is not the case. If anything, you are moved HIGHER up the list because you actually GO to theater and you enjoy it and should be disposed to part with a tad more to keep the lights on.

One recent phone fundraiser from the Seattle Rep was refreshingly honest - "I know you gave us money, but we were damned fools and spent it, so we're back." Probably the best pitch I've heard in years, but I still put him off, saying that the Lovely Bride handled donations (which is true). And she kicked in a bit to help out the Rep at the end of the year. And those contributions go to thing like the Yes Project, dedicated to getting more young voices on the stage and more younger butts in the seats.

And K of D is a part of one this Yes Project, and though most of the audience was considerably grayer than the target demographic, it is an excellent start.

It is a one-actress show, the actress being Renata Friedman, who plays The Girl, and moves with quicksilver grace as she inhabits the other characters in the play, holding down multiple ends of the conversation, downshifting from animated bounds to a dancer's stillness, holding the moment, containing and embodying the story.

The story itself (as we get to the heart of the matter) is about story-telling, in part, and the growth of an urban legend. But is it also about the hermetically sealed world of the young, before consensus and convention and even reality has a deepening effect. It is a place where magic still exists, when magic and the uncanny, is the best interpretation of the events of the larger world.

The place is a small town in western Ohio, and the urban legend is about Charlotte McGraw who loses her twin brother in an accident, stops talking to people, and picks up a strange and deadly superpower. Charlotte's silence is portrayed with mute delicacy, but the rest of her pack, the gathering of young teens who hung out together, do enough talking. We're thrown into their conversations early and without proper IDs, but The Girl doubles back and soon we know that Becky always has a cig and Stephanie has that squeaky fearful voice and they become internalized.

They are the stable ones in this town, in their own way of thinking. The adults are quirky with a good layer of menace beneath it. Charlotte's mom is a teacher with a bit too much competitiveness in her heart. Charlotte's dad is a bit of a thug, but a bigger thug is Johnny, who hit Charlotte's twin with his rusted blue Dodge as is the unrepentant villain of the piece. We start out telling stories about telling stories, but soon settle into the real tale of watching an urban legend unfold.

Friedman is all the characters, shifting smoothly from one to another. But this is no monologue, but as the stagecraft and in particular the sound couples and supports as an invisible partner, from the voice calling off-stage to the frogs and the closing of a lid on a glass jar. Friedman is perfectly timed, creating that bit of misdirection that is part of the magic. (OK, I will throw in one gripe - they identify a heron's call at one point, but use a loon instead. Loons sound mournful and sad, while herons sound like a bag full of ratchets. It's a small point).

And at the end, its the type of play that people who don't go to see plays should go see - it doesn't have a big name or a big issue or a big meaning. It is solid and powerful and well-written acted. I liked it, and the Lovely Bride loved it. On the way out, she said "Well, that's the best hundred dollars we've ever donated."


More later,