Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mini-Review of "For The Falls" by Emily Dendinger - A Staged Reading by Happy Medium Theatre

Falling Water - The Kauffman Residence
designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright made architectural history when he designed Fallingwater for the Kauffman family of Pennsylvania, the stunning house pictured above.  It was this striking design that inspired playwright Emily Dendinger to write a play set in this house, but portraying the struggle of a fictional bereaved family and group of friends.  The play, "For The Falls" has received a workshop presentation at the University of Iowa Playwright's Workshop.  Happy Medium Theatre of Boston presented a staged reading of this play this past Sunday at the Factory Theater in the South End.

The staged reading of this play was stunning.  Many of Happy Medium Theatre's usual cadre of actors participated, including Kiki Samko, Julia Specht, Mkey DiLoreto, Audrey Lynn Sylvia, Nick Miller, Victor Shopov and Michael Underhill, with Krista D'Agostino directing the production.

The play takes place in the iconic home, immediately following the funeral of Victor, a successful musician and composer, who may or may not have committed suicide.  The play is beautifully written, and was ably acted by the troupe - even in the limited staged reading format.  The themes of the play flowed like the waterfall that forms the backdrop for the house perched atop the stream.  Happy Medium Theatre offered a time of audience talk-back following the reading.  I will share with you some of the observations I made on Sunday afternoon.
  • There are several references to making paper boats to float on the stream.  Victor had left instructions for there to be a contest and race.  Two of the characters, Dorothy and Carl, have brought along inflatable rafts.  I made the comment that the paper boats and the rafts are emblematic of the fact that each character in the play is a fragile craft, hurtling down the stream of life and heading for the falls without much ability to control the voyage.
  • The noise of the waterfall makes it difficult for the characters to hear one another when using a normal tone of voice.  I saw this as a metaphor for the difficulty that the characters had in truly "hearing" and understanding each other because of the background noise of their personal issues, addictions, jealousies and idiosyncrasies.
  • The last piece of music that Victor composed before his death combined the background noise of the falls with traditional melodic music.  Those listening either loved or hated this blended piece.  As the play revealed truths about Victor and those caught up in the eddying stream of his life, it became clear that this piece of music represented Victor's attempt to blend his love for his wife, Marion, and his love for his lover, Eliot, who inhabits the house on the falls. 
  • In a sense, the house also stands for each character, perched precariously above a precipice, capable of tumbling into the stream if not properly supported and grounded.
  • Victor's brother, Jack, arrived late for the funeral and for the after-party,  and comes sweeping into the proceedings as the odd man out.  He is like Jack Kerouac recently returned from the road, and occupies center stage several times by making memories, s'mores and pancakes (that may or may not contain pieces of Victor's ashed in the batter).
  • Andrew, engaged to Victor's cousin Veronica, tries to comfort Veronica, but ends up blurting out banal and unhelpful observations.  In a sense, he fits into the stream and falls motifs by coming across as an inane babbling brook..
I loved the play, even in this incomplete form.  I look forward to Ms. Dendinger adding some finishing touches, and to seeing a fully mounted production of this fine work.  She has architected an intriguing story, and the actors/engineers of Happy Medium Theatre did an excellent job of presenting us with a memorable mock-up of the play.


1 comment:

Glan Deas said...

The picture in the blog is very nice. I love to visit that.

Kopi Luwak