blahblahblahBANG Dec 14, 2007
by Tania Kupczak
Doggie treats, acrobatics, “fuck ” (the word), fucking (the act), Radiohead, regurgitation, and a dream sequence featuring those creepy translucent plastic Halloween masks, make up just a short list of the reasons that “blahblahblahBANG ” should have been an absurd and spectacular theatrical abomination, but which, as it turns out, the Washington Ensemble Theatre manages to miraculously utilize in the creation of a coherent, deeply felt, and thoroughly entertaining production of a classic Western theatre mainstay.
I am excruciatingly (and joyfully) familiar with Henrik Ibsen’s 117 year old play “Hedda Gabler ”. Aside from attending a handful of faithfully rendered theatrical productions, I had direct creative brushes with the work, spending over a year editing a feature film version (directed by Paul Willis and based on the Printer’s Devil Theatre version of the work which set the play in modern-day Wenatchee, Washington), and, partially out of reaction to that experience, I wrote it into the script of my own feature film, “We Go Way Back ”. In that story, the actress protagonist is cast as Hedda by an “avant-garde ” theatre director, who creates the kind of “spectacular theatrical abomination ” that “blabblahblahBANG ” should have been. The difference is that while my director’s outre impulses were increasingly misguided, WET’s are just as dramatic but never gratuitous and are always applied with a healthy sense of self-aware humor.
It’s a pretty cinematic show, as theatrical experiences go. There’s a continuous soundtrack (variously thrumming, hypnotic, dissonant, and rapturous) and visual storytelling is utilized throughout to enhance or outright replace the wordier strategy that the playwright originally had in mind when he wrote the play. The fact that Henrik Ibsen was the playwright and “Hedda Gabler ” the play were two facts which escaped me upon my initial glances at the PR for the show but which turned out to be a huge bonus for me as an audience member. It’s quite possible that I may have enjoyed the show just as much had I not already been on familiar terms with “Hedda Gabler ”, but I can’t really speak from that point of view so why try? What I can say is that it was clear to me that WET is as intimate with the play as I am and that every over-the-top, performance-arty, visual-opera-ish, circus-tent-like choice that they made came directly and faithfully out of the text (or at the least out of their bold and dynamic interpretation of the text), and felt, to this HG-lover at least, refreshing, completely satisfying and, quite often, downright spine-tingling.
- Lynn Shelton