Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wallace (Squared).

Plan B Theatre Company's production of Wallace is the story of two famous Utah Wallaces.  The play, written by Jenifer Nii and Debora Threedy tells the story of Wallace Stegner (Pulitzer Prize winning writer, environmentalist, and graduate of the University of Utah) and Wallace Thurman (American novelist during the Harlem Renaissance who was born in Salt Lake City).  While the two were born within ten years of each other, Thurman died at the young age of 32 while Stegner lived well into his 80s.

Strong performances by the actors (Carleton Bluford as Stegner and Richard Scharine as Thurman) couldn't save this play from tedium.  To be fair, that may be more because of my lack of knowledge than the actual performance.  Maybe I needed a greater knowledge of the central characters to truly understand the material.  And while I've often said that the only way to really enjoy opera is to study up before the performance, I'm not sure I think I should be expected to do homework before attending a play.

Additionaly, I waited the entire performance for the two stories to come together in some meaningful way.  For me, it never happened.  Possibly a conversation with the playwrites would have helped to shed some light on the intention.  Although I suspect that just because two guys with Utah ties, born in a similar time period, and who share the name may not have as much in common as you might hope.

I don't want to sound like a total negatron, so I'll once again commend both actors for strong performances.  And the staging was also commendable, which is no small feat in the tiny studio theater at the Rose Wagner.  I've seen a lot of performances in that space that faulter.  Plan B always uses the space brilliantly even when the production is minimalistic like this one.

The show runs through March 14.  But tickets may be hard to come buy.  Even when I purchased mine last week the run was nearly sold out, a testament to Jerry Rapier's dedication and smart marketing.

A related note: Trent Call's paintings collectively called Uconoclasts are currently on display in the main lobby of the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. A departure from the style I associate with Call's painting style, these small portraits somehow feel historical and contemporary at the same time.

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