Calliope Theatre Company
Six Windows presents
A Hero of Our Time
Written by Will Arbery
Directed by Will Dagger
Medicine Show Theater, NYC
Friday, July 26th, 2013
What a pleasant return to the theater for me to come to a show like Six Windows presents A Hero of Our Time performed by the Calliope Theatre Company. Directed by Will Dagger and written by Will Arbery, who also happens to be one of the actors playing characters named after themselves, the play, a comedy, is basically the play that happens after the play that we were “supposed to have seen”, which would have been the group’s final performance of an adaptation of Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time with a paper-littered set (which is what we walked into the theater seeing), but as the play begins, instead of the Lermontov story, we are treated to the fictional cast of this production doing a roundtable talk-back session with the audience, and even though I knew this was the actual play starting, I thought that they really wanted questions from us–I shyly lowered my hand after being ignored (The acting bug in me was aching to come out again).
Moderated by the group’s producer (played by Drew Lewis), the talk-back session, which normally is a fun and informative moment with any cast or group, reveals some things about the characters while they are trying to continue being professional in front of an audience, and sort of gives us the idea that this theater group is not doing all that well, and many of the secrets and linking elements are revealed as the action takes place.
Following the talk-back, we see the fictional cast and crew come out to strike the set, and basically this was something I loved seeing having been a veteran of theater–People goofing around and singing loudly is just part of the experience when you are involved with a theatrical group, so, when they started singing along to “Iris” being played on the boom box, it was both funny and heart-warmingly memorable for me.
After an intermission, there’s a cast party where the actors are mostly drunk and coming out of the offstage party onto the dimly-lit bare stage, where, in different little groups, are revealing various things like affection, resentment, more stage group rituals, and personal issues, and after everyone has ended up back on the stage, yet another party breaks out with rave music, and after Chris the stage-designer’s jealous estranged wife shows up, the excitement dies down dramatically, and the actors in various stages of drunkenness (a few of them inebriated) stagger off to another place to hang.
The idea of a play inside-out-within-a-play has actually been done before in Noises Off, where that play’s 2nd act shows you the backstage drama while the play onstage is going on offstage, and then the performance that takes place in Act 3 is completely out of control. But SWPAHOOT is like a sort of upgrade of that concept, giving us nothing but the offstage drama, and having most of it improvised (I was informed of this later on after the show, and the performances have been different each night) and played out in different places in the theater (the lobby, the side of the stage, the audience).
The players are all amazing in this production, and I have to say it was a pleasure to see vocalist-dancer Kate Hamilton again after her performances with the Loom Ensemble. Her volume and movement were just as impressive here. Emily Walton, who reminded me very much of Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory’s Bernadette) was quite a memorable stand out as a neurotic writer. Drew Lewis seemed to have what looked like one of the more complex characters as his persona was privately tormented and lonely despite being the group’s producer. Maria Krovatin as the stage manager gave a performance of both humor and poignance, with one of the most sultry voices I have heard in real life.