Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Everyman - Open Window Theatre

Matt Berdahl Photography
I first went to Open Window Theatre back in November and really enjoyed the show. Today I went back to see Everyman. I need to make a confession. I graduated from college with a degree in Theater. Part of my schooling was Theater History in which we were required to read this play. I was lax and am quite certain I never read it, classic that it is.

Everyman is a morality play from the Middle Ages. The authorship is unknown, and the script is in Old English. It makes for some difficult reading, and in dialogue with the cast after the show - it makes for difficult memorization as well. As difficult as the script may be, the production was not. It was moving, colorful, educational, fun to watch, and at 90 min with no intermission - a great way to spend time. The space, this time, was set up in the round. There was a multi-level square set with various poles leading up to the ceiling. On the floor below one of the platforms was a white skull painted on the set. There were a few other designs in white along the tops of some sections. The set was all in shades of grey except for these few accents. Around the edge of the highest platform was written Psalm 27:1 in Hebrew, and in a dingy yellow paint. Being a morality play, I knew that there would be a faith-based tone to the show, and it didn't disappoint.

Matt Berdahl Photography
The story of Everyman is similar to Pilgrims Progress, or the Divine Comedy by Dante. It is the story of a man on a journey. In this piece the journey is taken by Everyman and it starts with Death coming to him and telling him that he must go to his final reckoning with God. Everyman reaches out to his friends Fellowship, Kindred & Cousin, and Goods. He asks all four of them to journey with him. They turn him away and so he is left to fend for himself. He searches for his Good-Deeds and finds them lacking but she tells him to seek out Knowledge. Knowledge persuades him to seek Confession, and to do some good deeds to help build up Good-Deeds. In doing this he finds the strength to move ahead in his journey...his journey toward death and possibly redemption.

It may seem odd that some of those words are capitalized, but they are character names. The cast of eight was fantastic through out. Everyman is played by Corey Mills, Nicole Goeden, Kiara Jackson, Elohim Pena, and Joann Oudekerk (these actors also played other roles). The character of Everyman is shown to truly be every man, and every woman. Everyman wears a scarf or shroud that is exchanged between actors in a very nice ritual. There are subtle props that get added and taken away as the journey moves on. Sharayah Bunce plays Death (and has the most incredible costume), as well as Good-Deeds. Siddeeqah Shabazz plays Knowledge, while Nathan Gebhard plays Goods and Discretion. As each actor was part of the chorus, or playing Everyman, the costumes (all designed by Josette Elstad) were simple and black. Each character though had specific costumes that fit so well to the history of the show, as well as being current.
Matt Berdahl Photography
While the language of the play may be difficult, this production (directed by Jeremy Stanbary) made every motivation, every bit of the journey clear and easy to understand. One part that made it easy was the constant movement through out. The movement and choreography was by Corey and Betsy Mills (from SPARK Theater + Dance), along with live music by Kurt Larson. There is a lot of underscoring to this show, at times making it more difficult to understand what was being spoken or sung. However the show is really worth seeing.

Open Window has a redemptive vision to their work. The work they do is good, interesting and gets you thinking. They have a good space (which has had some work done to it) and I intend to continue to see what they put on. I hope you take a chance and see this classic, yet rarely done, theater piece.

edited 3/3/16 to make small updates, and give credit to the photographer