Sunday, April 7, 2013

Theatre review: "Dream of Autumn" from Quantum Theatre

When it comes to Pittsburgh’s Quantum Theatre we expect the unexpected. And despite that seeming conundrum, no one would contradict the idea that Quantum should be cherished and admired for stretching beyond the usual borders of what most often characterizes theatre.

This time out we witness the world premiere of Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse ’s Dream of Autumn, translated and directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde, a Norwegian-American. Note that this comes from Ibsen’s climate and that the script comes from 1999 which suggests that it hadn’t previously provoked urgent interest.
When you look at Narelle Sissons’ scenic design and listen to what the characters are saying and doing, or not saying and doing, you could be reminded of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. A bleak landscape. Speeches pondering the meaning of life and death.  Waiting for clarity. Waiting to make up their minds. Long stretches of saying the same things with almost the same words, as if ritual.

You’ve got to hand it to the cast for taking on this challenge and to director Sunde for trying to wring every drop of meaning out of this arid soil. Indeed, look at Sisson’s set to see what I mean. Sand everywhere. Including the contents of two suspended hour glasses you can watch to learn how much longer you have in this slice of your life.      
Watch too the remarkable and astonishingly impressive performance of Martin Giles as he brilliantly finds every nuance, every fractured emotion, every rumination with the utmost internal clarity. Marvel as he does so while maintaining a completely appealing personification of child-like innocence

What it’s about, you ask? Perhaps you need to discover the presumably more subtle parts by yourself, should you wish to go there.
Let me just say that it takes place in a graveyard (Death. Get it?) involving characters called “Man” “Woman” “Mother” “Father” and “Gry.” That should be a clue to Fosse’s imagination. Time stumbles across the territory. Man and Woman seem to have been lovers or will be. Mother and Father hover like ghosts. Gry, Man’s one-time wife, appears. Why the specific name? Dwell on that later, if you think it’s worth it.  

They talk of love or lack of love. They talk of family. They talk of death. Man has trouble coming to decisions. They don’t do much else but talk. Oh well, they meander  all over the physical territory giving you something to look at, into and out of shadows, into and out of bright lights which illuminate very little within themselves. Meanwhile random sound effects puncture the echoing voices.  
Sunde has staged this within the crumbling walls of the former Park Schenley Restaurant in North Oakland, which provide appropriate hollow resonances amid the fragments of semi-buried, broken furniture. So even the graveyard is not taken literally.

So pile on the images, Pile on the expert verbal colorations. And laud our city’s Giles, Karla Boos, Laurie Klatscher, Gregory Lehane and Jennifer Tober for giving their best, never faltering, never failing in undiminished integrity. They prove that the best actors have the artistry to make something even this questionable become vivid. No doubt they will return in something more admirable. And so will you. That could come from Quantum. In spite of this.  
Dream of Autumn continues through April 28th at the former Park Schenley Restaurant, 3955 Bigelow Blvd. Oakland.  Tickets at  ShowClix 1-888-718-4253; or and at

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