Jacklyn Maddux

Animal instinct: Corrib’s ‘Chapatti’

Last year's hit two-hander about a dog lover and a cat lover reopens for a new run, this time on the Artists Rep stage

EDITORS’ NOTE: Corrib Theatre’s February 2016 show “Chapatti,” starring veterans Allen Nause and Jacklyn Maddux as a couple of “lonely Dublin codgers,” is back for a fresh run opening Monday, April 3, and continuing though April 16, this time on the Artists Rep stage: ticket and schedule information are here. ArtsWatch’s review from last year’s production is below:

 


 

To begin with, Dan’s a dog man, even though he’s trying to give away his boon companion for reasons that will become unsettlingly clear. Betty’s a cat woman – you could almost say a crazy old cat lady, given that she’s got nineteen, more or less, prowling around the house, and curiously, no one ever questions how the place smells. Obviously, this is never going to work.

Then again, as they say, opposites attract.

I wouldn’t call Christian O’Reilly’s 2014 play Chapatti the flip side of The Gin Game, exactly, although you could make the case. D.L. Coburn’s oddly Pulitzerized 1976 two-hander, like Chapatti, throws together an older man and an older woman in a situation not entirely in either one’s control, and is a showcase for actors of a certain age, giving them sparkling leading roles rather than confining them to playing old Uncle Fred and Aunt Bea, stuck in the corner with the overstuffed furniture in yet another family drama about the libidos and travails of kids in their twenties or even their forties.

Nause and Maddux: animal instinct. Photo: Owen Carey

Nause and Maddux: animal instinct. Photo: Owen Carey

In that sense Chapatti (the title is the name of Dan’s little bowser, whom we never see on stage, although his presence is felt) and Gin are blood brothers, star vehicles for seasoned performers who know the tricks of the trade. But while The Gin Game grows increasingly nastier – time hasn’t turned resentful Weller into a cuddly bear, and he goes raging into that good card game like an unrepentant attack dog, stripping away the niceties of civilization as he snarls – Chapatti heads in a different direction, toward reconciliation and second chances. It unabashedly wears the trappings of a traditional romantic comedy (geezer meets geezer, geezer and geezer endure complications, geezer gets geezer) but it’s not precisely a sentimental play, because it veers away from the romcom formula, deepening and dropping into disturbing danger zones, and it leaves a great big question at the end, so you can’t say it’s all sunshine to The Gin Game‘s surly storm. But if Chapatti isn’t bubblingly optimistic, it’s generously hopeful, and it provides a lot of fun as it rolls down the tracks on its ninety-minute journey toward whatever its unsettled destination will be.

Continues…

Mary of the mysteries

Jacklyn Maddux tells a tale of wonder and regret as the mother of Jesus in Colm Tóibín’s "The Testament of Mary" for Corrib Theatre

Holy Mother of God, how could you say such things? Tense, sad, argumentative and just this side of bitter, Jacklyn Maddux is far from a Renaissance painter’s vision of the Virgin Mary. Then again, that symbol of serene and ardent holiness is not what Colm Tóibín wants her to be. What he wants, as things turn out, is something more combative and conflicted in its mysteries.

Watching Maddux’s solo turn for Corrib Theatre in The Last Testament of Mary, Tóibín’s stage adaptation of his 2012 novella, I thought almost inevitably of Nikos Kazantzakis and his startling, in some circles notorious, novel The Last Temptation of Christ.

Temptation was first published in Greek in 1955, the year that Tóibín was born in Ireland, and although Last Testament is in no way connected stylistically or narratively to the earlier novel, they share a thematic understanding: religious myth is built on human experience. It is rote among Christians to refer to Jesus as both man and god, and yet the “man” half of the equation is routinely subsumed, as if it were a tainted and shameworthy thing, in the glories of the god. Kazantzakis roiled the official waters by writing a novel in which Jesus, far from being above or otherwise separated from humanity, was deeply and passionately human. He felt every emotion, every temptation, including the temptations of the flesh; only by being fully human and understanding what that meant could he be the kind of god he was.

Jacklyn Maddux as Mary, remembering. Photo: Owen Carey

The Last Testament of Mary concentrates on the human, too, through the voice and experiences not of Jesus but his mother, speaking, finally, years after the events. And Mary, to tell the truth, isn’t buying a lot of the mythology. Tóibín chose the word “testament” carefully: This remarkable and sometimes heartrending narrative is indeed a testimony and not a gospel (from the Old English “god spell,” or “good news”). To Mary’s mind, there’s not much good about it. Her account of her son’s life and death could almost be a legal deposition, a statement of the facts as the witness sees them, and yet it is also a dogged questioning, a ruthless self-examination, a turning-inside-out of the soul.

Continues…

Animal Instinct: Corrib’s ‘Chapatti’

Two geezers, 19 cats, a dog, and a dilemma: Nause and Maddux find life and love (maybe) near the end of the line

To begin with, Dan’s a dog man, even though he’s trying to give away his boon companion for reasons that will become unsettlingly clear. Betty’s a cat woman – you could almost say a crazy old cat lady, given that she’s got nineteen, more or less, prowling around the house, and curiously, no one ever questions how the place smells. Obviously, this is never going to work.

Then again, as they say, opposites attract.

I wouldn’t call Christian O’Reilly’s 2014 play Chapatti the flip side of The Gin Game, exactly, although you could make the case. D.L. Coburn’s oddly Pulitzerized 1976 two-hander, like Chapatti, throws together an older man and an older woman in a situation not entirely in either one’s control, and is a showcase for actors of a certain age, giving them sparkling leading roles rather than confining them to playing old Uncle Fred and Aunt Bea, stuck in the corner with the overstuffed furniture in yet another family drama about the libidos and travails of kids in their twenties or even their forties.

Nause and Maddux: animal instinct. Photo: Owen Carey

Nause and Maddux: animal instinct. Photo: Owen Carey

In that sense Chapatti (the title is the name of Dan’s little bowser, whom we never see on stage, although his presence is felt) and Gin are blood brothers, star vehicles for seasoned performers who know the tricks of the trade. But while The Gin Game grows increasingly nastier – time hasn’t turned resentful Weller into a cuddly bear, and he goes raging into that good card game like an unrepentant attack dog, stripping away the niceties of civilization as he snarls – Chapatti heads in a different direction, toward reconciliation and second chances. It unabashedly wears the trappings of a traditional romantic comedy (geezer meets geezer, geezer and geezer endure complications, geezer gets geezer) but it’s not precisely a sentimental play, because it veers away from the romcom formula, deepening and dropping into disturbing danger zones, and it leaves a great big question at the end, so you can’t say it’s all sunshine to The Gin Game‘s surly storm. But if Chapatti isn’t bubblingly optimistic, it’s generously hopeful, and it provides a lot of fun as it rolls down the tracks on its ninety-minute journey toward whatever its unsettled destination will be.

Continues…

Capturing the conscience of Tennessee Williams

Shaking the Tree's revival of 'Suddenly, Last Summer' offers a glimpse inside an outsider's mind

By CHRISTA McINTYRE

Rocked in the cradle by the demons of his Southern birth, Tennessee Williams was a man of his age and place. Shouldering that burden with Truman Capote and others of his era, he adopted a visceral masculinity polished with an effete sophistication. In a time when being openly homosexual was likely to have you expelled from society physically, psychologically and emotionally, Williams and his generation set a standard of untouchable worldliness, creating a gentility from which they could write, dance or paint beyond the circumvention of accepted gender identity. He was like an Orpheus, torn apart not by the Bacchanal, but rather by the inner sadness of his alienated standing.

Suddenly, a story gets told. Photo: Gary Norman

Suddenly, a story gets told. Photo: Gary Norman

While much and little has changed for gay civil rights, at the center of Williams’ work we experience the lost man. He writes in contrasts, from the humid, chthonic overgrowth of a personal garden to the bone-dry burning seaside. As his characters stand outside of temporary destinations, their mental and emotional lives pay a heavy cost for stoicism. If his characters were more honest, more open, more at liberty, we would have no play.

Shaking the Tree Theatre & Studio, which has just opened a revival of Williams’ 1958 one-act drama Suddenly, Last Summer, is an intimate playhouse, and its size and careful use of space are good matches for the savvy of the company’s audience. The actors, and director/set designer Samantha Van Der Merwe, often break the fourth wall: a character might appear off the side curtain nearing a hallway, but the direction draws you in as a participant experiencing a play. A respectful easiness in performance welcomes dabblers, lovers, and masters of the spoken word.

The set for Suddenly, Last Summer matches the contrasts within Williams’ play: an ornate rattan floral sitting room against a starch-white handmade paper forest of flowers and vines. Lights skip seamlessly off of the dead poet Sebastian’s jungle in greens and purples that match his mother’s antiquated lace dress. The sound of birds pitch against silent pauses and accentuate the dense overgrowth.

Suddenly, Last Summer is a series of confessional monologues anchored between aggressive interruptions. The members of a disingenuous Louisiana upper middle class family are set to save their reputations, bank accounts, futures, sanity, and egos after the unexpected death of the center of their universe, Sebastian Venable, a reclusive dandy who spends his life planning for vacations abroad, where he acquires and sometimes pays for one-time-a-year love. It is in his secret life and charm that his mother and later his cousin, Catherine, become entangled in his web of orchestrated hedonism.

Shaking The Tree captures the static, polarizing history and figures in Suddenly, Last Summer and presents the psychic front lines of knowing, but not saying, the truth. The opening minutes are uncomfortable and forced, capturing the foundation of presumed mores. As the play continues and more of the cast fills the stage, we become engrossed in solving the riddles we wish to be solved in real time.

Beth Thompson, as cousin Catherine Holly, mirrors the fortitude and despair of a prisoner of Bedlam. She matches, one on one, Jacklyn Maddux as Violet Venable, Sebastian’s mother. They are the two characters who display a complexity of personality, dueling off the one-sided attrition of the lesser sycophants. Steve Vanderzee is the perfect repressed and over-pressed young Southern man,  torn between apron strings and self delusion.

Van Der Merwe has done an exceptional job of assembling theatrical elements, using lighting, sound, and image to explore the inner stories and lives into which we get a glimpse. Each of us has been an outsider at one point in our lives. The great axis upon which good artistic work rests is finding the universal thread in the  current dilemma. Shaking The Tree gives Williams a new approach to see that invisible line.

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Suddenly, Last Summer continues through May 2 at Shaking the Tree. Ticket and schedule information are here.

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Christa McIntyre is a Pacific Northwest freelance journalist, a lover, a fighter, mother, chef of sandwiches and occasional back seat canoe paddler.

 

Mom and daughter, unbonding

Marsha Norman's harrowing "'Night, Mother" at CoHo is a long night's journey into … where?

Thelma has a sweet life. At least, if we’re to judge by her preferred diet. In the early moments of ‘Night, Mother, the Pulitzer-winning 1983 play by Marsha Norman, Thelma’s daughter Jessie diligently fills storage canisters and decorative dishes with various candies, and leaves more where that came from in big brown paper bags. Thelma prefers sodas to milk, too, despite her doctor’s admonitions. Simple pleasures, it seems, are enough to make her unexamined life worth living.

On this particular night, a Saturday, one of those pleasures is to be a manicure, courtesy of Jessie. Such are the quiet routines of these two, living together again as adults, since the end of Jessie’s ill-fated marriage.

Maddux and Millican: one helluva night. Photo: Gary Norman

Maddux and Millican: one helluva night. Photo: Gary Norman

But routine is disrupted by the most bitter shock a parent can taste after Jessie unceremoniously informs her mom that she intends to kill herself before the evening is over. The central concern of ‘Night, Mother isn’t so much whether Jessie will or won’t follow through, but rather what Thelma will do – what must she do, what can she do –  in the face of such awful knowledge.

Of these two characters, it is Jessie who is lost in despair, whose internal circumstance is demonstrably pitiable; yet it is Thelma who truly elicits our care and sympathies. That’s partly because Norman’s script – perhaps its very premise – thrusts Thelma into the more emotionally complex and volatile dilemma. (“To be, or not to be,” might in fact be the question, but it’s not nearly as tricky as “What if?”) But in the production that opened Friday at CoHo Theater, much of that is due to a marvelously multi-layered performance from Jacklyn Maddux, who brings a terrible vividness to Thelma’s perplexity and desperation.

In his professional debut as a director, the powerful Portland actor Gavin Hoffman guides Maddux and Dana Millican through the emotional curves of this tightly contained one-act drama with a clear sense of pace.

By the time Jessie reveals her plan, just a few minutes into the play, Thelma already is implicated in the act. Once she’s finished stocking the candy, Jessie asks where her father’s gun might be, and Thelma guides her to its shoebox hidey hole in the attic. Though that exchange, and Jessie’s calm, purposeful cleaning of the pistol, carry a ho-hum casualness, they lead quite naturally to the question of why Jessie’s suddenly interested in the weapon. At first she tells Thelma she wants the gun “for protection” – an unconvincing claim, given their homebody natures and the placid, lower-middle-class lives evoked by Tal Sander’s scrupulously naturalistic set design – but she seems to be neither joking nor lying: She is indeed seeking protection, from the crushing force of lifelong dissatisfaction, from sadness as stasis.

Thelma responds with, by turns, disbelief, horror, anger, grief; and she tries whatever pops into her suddenly and unaccustomedly racing mind to dissuade her daughter. She reasons, she sweet-talks, she threatens, she stalls. Jessie counters these efforts with the gentle resolve of a tai chi master (albeit a slightly peevish one), and the evening settles into a slower rhythm as the two women delve into a long overdue accounting of their entwined lives and sorrows.

With their matching pale-red curls, Millican and Maddux look very much like family, and their interaction here achieves a kind of lived-in mix of tenderness and temper. If Millican’s performance is the less arresting of the two, that may be in part because Jessie’s character arc has, for the most part, already been completed by the time we meet these two. The actor’s challenge is in balancing Jessie’s despair with her pragmatism and finding the right energy to keep her moving forward when her motivation is simply to stop, and Millican rides that line well. Yet Jessie remains a somewhat unsatisfying character, a mere obstructionist in the play’s emotional dynamic.

She not only resists Thelma’s varied efforts to change her mind, she won’t let Thelma call for help, and wants her to later on deny any forewarning of the suicide. These last hours are a “private matter” between the two of them, she insists. She didn’t want to simply leave a note or to leave things unexplained, but giving mom a chance to say goodbye also means giving mom a sickening taste of powerlessness.

And what ‘Night, Mother leaves us to ponder is whether those last hours were Jessie’s parting gift or parting curse.

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 ‘Night, Mother continues through Nov. 8 at CoHo Theater. Ticket and schedule information are here.