Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Changelings - Ten Thousand Things Theater

The play has some very funny parts, too. Really!
The Changelings is the latest collaboration between Ten Thousand Things Theater and playwright-in-residence Kira Obolensky. As with her other recent works, Forget Me Not When Far Away and Dirt SticksThe Changelings is an original story with the feel of a timeless fable.

Two of the first characters we meet are Wind (Kimberly Richardson), an all-seeing force of nature teasing a broken-down House (Kurt Kwan), the residence of Sister (Joy Dolo) and her mother, Goat (Shá Cage). Goat and Sister are human, but have been known by their nicknames for a very long time, as has Freshface (Luverne Seifert), who runs an unsuccessful betting parlor with the help of Sharp (Kwan). Freshface and Goat are married, but he has taken up with Trixie (Richardson), a widow with money, which she uses to help Freshface's business, ironically named Paradise.

Luverne Seifert and Sha Cage (photo by Paula Keller)
Into this unhappy mess comes Otto (Ricardo Vazquez), claiming to be the son who disappeared some twenty years ago. He claims to have been stolen by goblins and taken to another world, and now, as an adult, he has escaped and come back to his family. Naturally, Otto's arrival causes a variety of reactions from his family members, who take their own paths through joy, disbelief, and cautious optimism.

In folklore, a changeling is a child stolen by magical beings and replaced with another. Obolensky's choice to make the title of the play plural suggests an expansion of that definition. But who are the changelings? I think everyone who sees the play will have to decide that for themselves. Though the story told is fairly simple, it brings up a lot of questions about how different people react to similar situations and why.

Kurt Kwan (photo by Paula Keller)
And audience members may have very different reactions, as well. Many things are left open to interpretation, but it is a fascinating journey. The story is only part of this play. The characters are people we want to know more about. One of the luxuries of having a playwright in residence is that Obolensky was able to write to the specific strengths of each of the actors in this production. The writing and the acting combine to create characters and a story that stay with us long after the play has ended.

It almost goes without saying, but all of the performances are wonderful. The Ten Thousand Things style of stripped-down staging as directed by Michelle Hensley means that the audience can really focus on the acting—not that anything here feels like acting. Being within a few feet of the performers, you see every nuance, expression, and reaction. Best of all, you can see their eyes, which convey the sense of lives that go on beyond what we see on the stage. And every single actor balances beautifully between hilarious and heartrending. One small moment, at the near end of the play, had me quite nearly in tears.
Kimberly Richardson and Luverne Seifert
(photo by Paula Keller)
In short, see this play to experience some of the purest storytelling you will ever experience. We saw it at Bedlam Theatre, but you can see it through June 5 at Open Book.

By the way, Bedlam Theatre is a fabulous place to see Ten Thousand Things Theater productions. It's not only the lovely bar and friendly staff. It's the open, urban feel of Bedlam, with the light rail and city folks passing by the windows. The space just has a warm feel to it which fits TTT to a (whaaaaat?) T.

We also had the opportunity to participate in a new program called Play Local. Check back with us for more info about this fabulous new program!