While Bend has a well-developed and substantial theater scene, there's still plenty of Neil Simon being tossed around. Not that there's anything wrong with that, safe theater is theater no less, but as the lust for adventurous theater grows with the town, the time to step out of the Bend theater box is now.
Enter the Black Box series from Cascades Theatrical Company. A three-play set with the intention of exposing local thespians to more unconventional and unusual productions, albeit still popular ones; of the three scheduled plays, two made American Theater Magazine's list of the top 10 most produced plays of 2013-2014 (God of Carnage is one, Venus in Fur the other). CTC will continue running its more traditionally programed series alongside the Black Box productions, which are being put together at a new northside rehearsal space for CTC, a storage unit off Empire that will soon house props and costumes that currently live at and crowd the Cascades Theater (formerly the Greenwood Playhouse), and hosts a taped-off model stage, the size of the performance space on Greenwood.
The dark comedy, God of Carnage, by French playwright Yasmina Reza, and translated by Christopher Hampton, fits the Black Box guidelines seamlessly. In what ends up being an 80-minute long argument (sorry horror fans, there's no "Game of Thrones" gore as the name suggests) two couples attempt to resolve their sons' park quarrel, which ended in a minor assault with a stick.
The audience never sees the altercation or meets the boys, and most of the action of the play comes from the couples switching seats in a musical chairs-style dance around the focal coffee table at the center of the set. As the couples attempt to settle their differences the social strata becomes clear, and they continue to lose middle ground in their jobs (lawyer vs. wholesale salesman) their epistemology (Spartacus vs. Spider Man) and even their eating and drinking habbits (espresso vs. coffee, and what the hell is clafouti?)
As the tension builds the play becomes a discussion of primitive nature vs. civilized diplomacy, and strangely, those are the places where the couples cross party lines.
Directed by and starring Brad Thompson, alongside A. Lynn Jesus, Christine Thompson and Ed Victor, Brad Thompson is a standout as a director and lead, with goofy characteristics and mannerisms that are spot on for the middle-class dad he plays. The humanity of the dialogue, the scathingly obvious social divergences, and the banter amongst the couples, allow the four actors to flex their abilities and show that local theater doesn't need to be all murder mysteries, or sunshine and rainbows.
God of Carnage
7:30 pm. Thurs., Sept. 25
7:30 pm. Fri.-Sat. Sept. 26-27
2 pm. Sun., Sept. 28
Cascades Theatre, 148 NW Greenwood Ave.
$15, $12 for seniors and students
Tickets at cascadestheatrical.org
Other Black Box productions:
The Pillowman runs February 19-22.
Venus in Fur runs May 14-17.