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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 4.10.08




Waiting for the End

Local playwright's homage to Beckett at LCC

BY SUZI STEFFEN

Got restless leg syndrome? If you don't when you walk into A Soft Kiss While Visiting Samuel, you'll surely develop it over the course of LCC's current production.

The pains of watching this show might be intentional. Written and directed by Johnny Ormsbee, Soft Kiss shows off its origins and Ormsbee's desire to stamp the theater of the absurd with his own ideas and perspective.

Dagot (Scott Shirk) with Lizzie (Michelle Nordella) and Dirty Dagot (Sam Morehouse). Photo: MICHAEL BRINKERHOFF

Certainly there's some absurdity involved, along with some Extremely Metaphysical Meanings Represented by Doors. And a corpse, or perhaps two or three. And some sexism. And … well. I suppose college is the right place for this kind of experiment, an indulgent exercise in referential game playing that lets almost all of the actors off leash for a bit too long.

There's something to be said for Ormsbee's perceptive takes on the possibility of neverending grind in long-term relationships and the probability that we'll all experience loneliness, jealousy and a desire to escape something we can never really get away from. Of course, that something has probably been said a few times before. But art doesn't have to (and can't) be entirely original to affect us, and the slow deterioration of Samuel (Dylan Skye Kennedy) and Lizzie (Michelle Nordella)'s relationship becomes a narrative thread that carries much of the first act.

When Dagot (Scott Shirk) enters the scene, the triangulation sets off all kinds of human complications. There's jealousy, storytelling, squabbling and, of course, (there's just no way to do this without capital letters) the Sordid And Unconscious Underbelly of Humanity, represented by Dirty Dagot (Sam Morehouse). When the spunky Lizzie leaves the scene, Samuel quickly finds himself a new distraction, a new ball and chain in the red-dress-clad Cyprian (Barbie Wu).

Samuel never learns. Humans don't, you know. We repeat our mistakes and struggles, stuck in our existential states, waiting for the release of death even as we fear it.

Just in case you missed those lessons when you read Waiting for Godot (hm ... Godot … Dagot … hm … ) or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead or The Stranger, there's a corpse. Excuse me; there's a Corpse (Chip Sherman), always onstage, sometimes animate, sometimes vocal. And it's in Sherman's role that a regular theater-going audience sees one of Ormsbee's strategies most strongly: Sherman's agile, tough, bendable body flops all over the stage, providing him an opportunity to show off his physical skills and his ability to mimic a deadweight. It's almost like watching a theater class run through various exercises: This is how you carry another actor. This is how you pretend to be dead. This is how you showcase someone's physical talents.

Ormsbee has a long history of involvement in local theater. If the half-hostile anonymous eggheads eerily resemble the half-hostile anonymous white-faced folk of the UO's 2007 Anonymous, or if Scott Shirk's costume refers to several Very Little Theatre productions (which Ormsbee makes clear with an actual reference to the VLT's current show), or if Samuel stops the action to have a discussion about the audience with the other actors, no big surprise but, to some members of the audience at least, a delight.

Kennedy, playing the ever present Samuel, does a fine job somehow staying in character even when he's supposed to be switching in and out of reality as he deals with momentary breakdowns in the fourth wall. Despite his extraordinary amount of speaking time, he doesn't stumble, and he delivers cleverish lines like, "What in the name of absurdity is going on?" and "The window of periphescence has passed" with aplomb.

Samuel warns Dagot not to take too much note of the audience: "If they burn you, it is no one's fault but your own." Indeed. Because we're all alone, see. Each of us. And the man in the black hat is coming.

Soft Kiss runs through April 12 in LCC's Blue Door Theatre. Tix at 463-5761.