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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 23, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 12
Inept choices mar well-acted Lark Eden
Arts & Entertainment
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Inept choices mar well-acted Lark Eden

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Lark Eden
Theater Schmeater
Through April 14


Three best friends grow up and grow old together in letters in Georgia. That is the sum of the new play at Theater Schmeater, Lark Eden, which just opened. Natalie Symons both wrote and directed her play. Natalie has close ties to Seattle, though she now lives in Florida, and had a reading of Lark Eden last year at the Schmee.

The three actors - Teri Lazzara, Katie Driscoll, and Michelle Chiachiere - are all terrific actors and take on this challenge with gusto. There's the religious one who looks at everything as God's will and wants to have tons of babies (and does). Lazzara keeps her tart and interesting, instead of devolving into such a virtuous drudge that you want to punch her.

There's the one who says what she thinks and is given to making fun of people, though you know some of it is a protective device, as she's stuck making the best of it taking care of both her grandmother and her mother into old age. Chiachiere walks a tight line between nasty and Joan Rivers fun-making, mostly to good effect.

And there's the one in the middle, who frets because she doesn't really believe in God, but isn't sure what that means, who wants the home and family, and has to make do with only part of that. Driscoll is basically the heart of the piece, the one who subtly keeps everyone together through thick and (mostly) thin.

Scenic designer Al Angel ends up with almost too much set, since the elongated set (and an audience set into two very long horizontal lines) suggests way more movement and possibility than happens. In fact, the play is staged 'reading style' where all three women stand or sit at reading stands with memory books in front of them, and never waver from that position. So, having doorways and other embellishment simply promises more and can't deliver.

Director Symons spreads out the audience and dilutes the energy of having the three women look directly at the audience. The long sides get only part of the strength of having actors talk right to you. It's an unfortunate choice. The fact that the actors continue to turn pages suggests that it's a reading, rather than a fully memorized play. The lines are probably completely memorized, yet again, seem to be directed not to be.

Stretching this memory play - where we all realize that they will get old and die, as we all will - into a two-act play with intermission (when nothing particularly intermission-worthy happens) is also a mistake. It encourages repetition and dwelling on certain ages longer than necessary.

Even so, the actors make it affecting and their love for each other is transparent. At the end of the play, when it's clear one has finally gone to heaven, with the other family members who have made it there, it's virtually impossible not to tear up with them. One wishes that Symons had taken her talent for creating recognizable and interesting characters and made a less static play, with more of a point than 'an ode to those inconspicuous souls amongst us' who leave fingerprints on our hearts.

For more information, go to www.schmeater.org or call 206-324-5801.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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