Theatrical Impression: There There at On the Boards

January 24, 2014

[DISCLAIMER: Not a review. Just some person who makes some theatre writing down her impressions. Take it or leave it!]

I have only been to On the Boards three times since I moved to Seattle in 2009. I know, I am a shitty theatergoer. On the Boards is doing some of the most innovative and exciting work, bringing world-touring productions to their beautiful and malleable space in Queen Anne. (I also attended the HUMP Film Festival in 2010 there, best venue so far.)

But, I was not a fan of There There by Kristen Kosmas. I was excited at first. The premise is great: Christopher Walken has fallen off a ladder, so this woman must step in and perform his one-man show about a character from Three Sisters by Chekhov. However, we the showgoers all know this going in, so when we are left sitting exposed in aisle/stadium seats facing each other in full lights, it’s surprising when the stage manager sweeps back three times to the backstage area, then the actress and her translator pop out and begin performing right away. No nervousness, no “what am I doing here” or “I’m not even supposed to be here” tone. Kosmas just jumped straight into an emotionless, monotonous tone that she held for the entire play.

The night I attended, the show was being filmed for On the Boards TV. Perhaps Kosmas was made nervous by the cameras? And eventually being able to see the rest of the audience didn’t phase me, except only that I wasn’t laughing as much as everyone else.

The set was beautiful and dynamic, with several paintings on the upstage wall in a modern yet classic Russian portrait style. There was also a moveable podium, a lovely table and chairs for the actresses to sit on, and a recessed area upstage that created some beautiful abstract moments of singing and dancing.

But nothing sat quite right with me, the entire time. Kosmas’s delivery was off, somehow. When she made a joke, it wasn’t funny, but I could see how it could be funny. The script was great, the jokes were totally there, but the show was not.

When Kosmas first entered and launched into her straight stream of monologue that continued for the following 65 minutes, I was not sure how to feel. Should I be nervous for this actress who has to go on for a male actor? But instead, I was left trying to connect with the actual person and discern what I was feeling and not connecting with the character ‘Karen’ she was creating onstage.

Overall, I don’t understand what all the hype was about with There There, but I do see what the hype is about On the Boards. I plan to go see more shows there in the future, because I have definitely been missing out. And that’s the great thing about a venue that brings in so many different shows, right? You don’t have to like everything they do, but you have a ton of art from which to find something you do.

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