A Theater Must – Spoon River Anthology

Sofie Kline and Chuck Bassett in 'Spoon River Anthology'.

Theater can be hit or miss, not just in a small town like Astoria, but in big cities like New York and Chicago too. Of course Astoria is theater-centric more than most small towns, hell I can’t think of one that comes close, and I am told by local thespians that this is not even the heyday of Astoria theater.  It seems some ten or fifteen years ago, it was even bigger, and I was regaled with stories of the incredible River Theater. Whether the current state of local theater is a boom or a bust, I recently caught the outstanding opening of ‘Spoon River Anthology’ at the historic Liberty Theater.

‘Spoon River Anthology’ dates from 1915, written by Edgar Lee Masters about many actual people that lived in or near the real town of Spoon River, Illinois.  The play consists of a series of brief monologues – actually poems – told by various residents of Spoon River from the grave, and as director Sen Incavo says, “The dead don’t lie”.

Chuck Bassett playing guitar during the Spoon River Anthology.

 

The epitaphs tell of lost love, unscrupulous businessmen, cheating spouses, gold digging women, miserable marriages, young soldiers killed in battle. There are dozens of these brief admissions and a handful of songs, all performed by only four actors – Ann Bronson, Bill Honl, Sofie Kline and Chuck Bassett, Chuck Bassett also plays the guitar throughout. All of the acting is surprisingly good with Bill Honl and Ann Bronson taking on the more dramatic of the characters, literally transforming from one person to another without so much as a costume change.

The play is divided into two acts, each starting with a series of images presented on a screen hung above the actors, the first with images of Spoon River and it’s cemetery, the second moves from stalks of corn and midwestern skies to that of the Columbia River and local forest trails.  This second series of images was perhaps the only element of this show that was less than perfect, as the images of Oregon seem inexplicable and drive us right back to reality, rather than keeping us within the rich tapestry of tales told by Spoon River’s deceased. The lack of a set, lit with only single and dramatic spotlighting, no costume changes, and the fact that four actors took on some three dozen roles, still kept me firmly planted in Spoon River, but the images of the Megler Bridge brought me right back to my seat in the theater.

This play is a must for fans of theater, and even those who are skeptical of community productions will likely enjoy the rich monologues, the excellent acting, and the stories themselves which transcend Spoon River to represent all small towns at any place or time in history. See it before the dead go back to the grave, there are only three performances left.

 

Remaining performances: Feb. 17 at 3 pm, Feb. 22 and 23 at 7:30

At: The Liberty Theater 1203 Commercial Street, Astoria OR

http://www.liberty-theater.org/

Tickets are on sale at the Liberty Theatre Box Office, 1203 Commercial, Astoria 503-325-5922 Ext. 55 or through Ticketswest.com 1-800-992-8499

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