The Last Supper
Performed at Ms. Carter's home; ends Sat., July 30.
Though this may not come as a surprise to everyone, I was disappointed recently to discover that I'm Judas. I feel a little guilty, and I've tried to find ways around it, but there's really no avoiding the truth. I sat in Mary Carter's lovely waterfront apartment. I watched her perform playwright Ed Schmidt's secular attempt at explaining religious faith. I drank her wine and ate her food. I then excused myself from dessert and headed home, knowing without a doubt that if the temple guards or Pharisees should contact me, I would not only tell them where to find Ms. Carter, I would give them very careful directions so they'd be sure to put a stop to things.
The Last Supper is a 12- audience-members-only affair—twelve, get it?—in which Carter sets up pews in her kitchen and pretends to be preparing both a meal and a one-woman parable about . . . well, you know. Schmidt's script, which apparently met with some success when he himself performed it in his own New York City apartment, begins with an irreverent discussion of Jesus' five-loaves-of-bread-and-two-small-fishes miracle that fed 5,000 people, and how, understandably, such unlikely achievements are fodder for anyone already inclined to doubt biblical accuracy. But, we are reminded, "If you believe in the storyteller, you will believe in the story."
You won't believe in the storyteller, unfortunately, and, in fact, will most likely find yourself as willing a traitor as I. Schmidt's gimmicky play has some mildly engaging notions about "the blurring of lines between theater and religion," but Carter is too blurry herself to pull it off. She's trying to put over a faux nervous realism that would have you believe she's just some goofball who came upon this wacky script and—oh, crap!—would you please excuse her for constantly screwing up because, really, things normally go much more smoothly, and—oh, shit!—she forgot to defrost the fish, etc. etc. ad nauseam. The pseudo- frankness and scatterbrained-actress routine do not flatter her abilities; when she self-deprecatingly "confesses" (as per scripted requirement) that she's not an actress, it's the one time in the night that she's entirely convincing—though not in the way she intends.
Worse, Schmidt has provided handy, fill-in-the-blank opportunities for Carter to spice up jokes with local references. This means random howlers about, say, Puyallup, Vashon Island, Spokane Mayor Jim West, and, on the night I attended, a socko punch line concerning some paper called The Seattle Stranger. Surviving such humor means you feel the least you're owed is the actual supper, which Carter attempts to convince you won't be happening due to supposed ill-planning, but which you can smell—and hear—being set up just behind the curtain to your left. (It's a miracle, see?) There's an unimpressive but satisfying lamb stew and salad, which go down easier than the previous 90 minutes.
When finally allowed to be herself at the supper table, Carter appears to be a fine person. Her production, however, deserves crucifixion. Give me 30 pieces of silver and I'll make sure she keeps her future meals to herself. STEVE WIECKING
This Is Our Youth
Little Theater; ends Sat., July 16
Feeney (left) and Corbett wait out their Youth.
(Marya Sea Kaminski)
Ambivalence abounds in Direct Flight's production of Kenneth Lonergan's award-winning play about three young knockabouts floating through the cultural purgatory of the Reagan era. The "friendship" at the heart of this play— between the abusive, egomaniacal Dennis (Quinlan Corbett) and the submissive, shat-upon Warren (Joe Feeney)—is a dance defined by perpetual conflict and intermittent detente. And Jessica (Mikano Fukaya), who hooks up with Warren but appears equally in thrall of Dennis, is as suspicious of her own motives as she is those of her suitor. Even the play's title cuts both ways, as warning (Behold, our youth!) and as bitter testament (as in, "Look—this is what you've done to us"). For this generation adrift amongst the detritus of drugs, nihilism, and MTV, the center cannot hold because, really, there is no center.
Yet, Lonergan, as he so brilliantly proved in his quiet masterpiece of a film You Can Count on Me, is not nearly as concerned with placing blame as he is with diagnosing the symptoms of our cultural malaise. The plot here is convoluted yet at the same time strangely inconsequential, a lanky skeleton of devices meant to isolate the intricacies of individual relationships between broken, self- anesthetizing people. Warren shows up at Dennis' house with $15,000, which he stole from his father after Dad kicked him out. To replace the money already spent, part of which goes to repaying a loan to Dennis, the two decide to buy some coke, party with Jessica and Warren's (unseen) girlfriend, make a profit, and sneak the money back before Dad notices.
What ensues is a series of confrontations that depict the yearning and fear with which vulnerable people reach fumblingly for love, and the fear and repulsion with which that reaching is so often slapped away. Lonergan's concerns, for lack of a better word, are existential in nature, having to do with the manner in which people connect or fail to connect meaningfully with each other and with the world. All of which is to say that his work is heavily character- and dialogue-driven, given to marathon scenes of knee-deep chatter and protracted revelation.
Though director Mark Gallagher does a good job with the talky nature of the material, compelling a kind of stuttering naturalism from his cast, the performances are a bit too rough around the edges. The result is that the production, while strong on humanity, doesn't always locate the humor in Lonergan's writing; the comedy is so dark it blots the light. Some of the scenes drag on two beats too long, making the play feel more protracted than it should.
Yet, for all the production's unevenness, this is a deeply affecting and disturbing play. It infects you with some of the same dread that haunts its characters; its ambivalence is contagious. When Dennis asks Warren about his future prospects, his response perfectly sums up the cultural void in which we all seem to be paddling: "What's going to happen to anybody?" he replies. "Who cares?" RICHARD MORIN