Monday, March 30, 2009

Balm in Gilead

It's always a good night at the theater when I'm able to have some sort of epiphany or to learn something about myself and the world I live in. I had one of those nights Friday while at Lansing Community College's Balm in Gilead.

What I discovered was how very much my tastes in theater have changed over the past five years. Five years ago, I don't think I would have enjoyed Balm in Gilead much. I would have been bothered by the language and confused by the format. I would have wanted a show that was more conventional in its approach, spooning me softer food so that I could easily digest it.

That was five years ago.

On Friday, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the play, its presentation, and all of the experimental glory of Lanford Wilson's first work. The overlapping dialog and the multiple scenes provided the soundtrack for the actors who would only occasionally be given a solo moment to sing forth their part of the story. There was a cacophony that reinforced the chaos in each of the character's lives--a raucous rhythm that refused to be tamed into the melodic lines each of them longed for.

It made the quartet particularly potent, singing out their doo wops in the beginning with the New Yorkers rapt in attention, as if each still hoped that there could be such simple dreams expressed so clearly and easily. When that same quartet is later chased away, it is because their listeners have become more cynical, more hardened and are no longer pinning their hopes to a technicolor dream in button-down collars framing clean-shaven baby faces.

Balm in Gilead was a thoughtfully done play with staging and choices that each spoke in its own way, inviting you to delve into each image with all the allure of a Picasso hanging on a gallery wall. Neither will spoon feed you, but both are crafted with incredible attention to detail and fine artistic achievement.


Anonymous said...

I really like the way you've described this experience, Bridgette. I felt the same but wouldn't have had the words to say it so well. Thanks. Addiann

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the nice review, Bridgette. John Lepard deserved big kudos for how he crafted this piece. I really enjoyed the roles I played and how John orchestrated all of our individual acting into this ensemble piece. Dave Dunckel. Hi Addiann!!

Bridgette Redman said...

Thank you both for stopping by and for commenting. It was one of those plays where the experience gets richer the longer it brews.

It was a pleasure to write about.