REVIEW: Caffeine Theatre’s “Under Milk Wood”

“Under Milk Wood” misses the mark

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Caffeine Theatre presents:

Under Milk Wood
by Dylan Thomas
directed by Paul S. Holmquist
thru September 27th (buy tickets)

reviewed by Paige Listerud

Few things irritate more than a production that, however outstanding and finely wrought, still fails to gel, to become the whole it was intended to be. Such is the case with Caffeine Theatre’s production of Dylan ThomasUnder Milk Wood, now onstage at the Storefront Theater. Director Paul S. Holmquist and the producers have done yeoman work transforming what was originally a radio play into full-scale theatrical storytelling, with 9-member cast taking on 47 roles.

CaffeineTheatre_UnderMilkWood_3 The choice of this DCA space is particularly conducive to their artistic intentions—open and spacious enough, yet still conveying intimate communication between audience and cast. Holmquist’s staging and direction is a marvel of agility and grace in the production’s mercurial shifts from scene to scene. His utilization of the set design’s multiple levels successfully hints at the thin veil between dream and waking life; between hidden desires and performed social roles; between life and death.

How frustrating that, in spite of the cast’s talents, the resulting work lacks cohesion and wholeness through the lack of a uniform narrative performance style. Thomas, when he composed the radio play, constructed its narration with Voice 1 and Voice 2. BCaffeineTheatre_UnderMilkWood_7ut Holmquist and company divide the two narrative voices among all 9 cast members. That alone might not have defeated the work. However, the cast is uneven in its presentation of the play’s narrative voice.

By far, Dave Skvarla (Captain Cat) performs this narrative feature best. He owns the stage when he speaks and creates three-dimensional space by the use of his voice alone; Dan Granata (Mr. Mog Edwards) and Elise Kauzlaric (Myfanwy Price) exhibit this ability to a lesser, but still tangible degree. Sadly, that same technique falls off with the rest of the cast, whatever their other abilities.

That is really unfortunate, because the cast creates fully committed and indelible characters. The moments of Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard (Kaitlin Byrd) drilling her two deceased husbands, Mr. Pritchard (Paul Myers) and Mr. Ogmore (Dan Granata), through their daily and nightly routines, lasts long after the show has ended; as do Kate Nawrocki’s saucy Rosie Probert and her Bessie Bighead, ethereally fading into death’s oblivion. Paul Myer’s full range in the use of his body suggests the strains and twists life molds into the human character by time.

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Well, for the want of a nail, the battle was lost and for the want of a critical performance technique, the world of this play dissipates into fragilely connected scenes. This leads to what Caffeine Theatre’s production lacks most–a sense of place. A tragically missing element, since Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood as his response to the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Here, in his imaginary Welsh town, fecund with dreams and desire, with the power of language alone, he took his stand against total nuclear annihilation.

Rating: ««

  Also, check out postings and pics from Under Milk Wood rehearsals.

2 Responses

  1. […] Under Milk Wood Caffeine Theatre » our review here […]

  2. […] Men -  Raven Theatre  (review ★★★) Under Milk Wood  – Caffeine Theatre  (review […]

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