Sunday, September 18, 2011

theatre notes. inherit the wind.

The Erickson Theatre off Broadway is one of my favorite theaters in Seattle, not least because it is only four blocks from my apartment. It's a black box, with maybe 120 seats, give or take, the stage an open rectangle at one end. "Backstage" is usually whatever space is behind some piece of scenery at the rear, as far as I can tell, and changes between scenes are lightning-quick. I've been here many times, now, usually for a Strawberry Theatre Workshop production (the exception was the New Century Theatre Company's O Lovely Glowworm), and I wonder what will happen in 2012 when the Balagan Theatre moves in and takes over the space.

It's been nearly twenty years since I read Inherit the Wind in middle school. We watched the movie in class, with Spencer Tracy and Fredric March. I'd forgotten most of the story. When I heard that Strawberry Theatre Workshop would be producing it this fall, I knew that I would be there. I recognized many of the actors from previous plays; while a play or a playwright will catch my eye, the cast is what ultimately guarantees my attendance. Here, as usual, there is a tightly knit ensemble orbiting around the two planets of Drummond and Brady, some of the actors switching back and forth between characters almost at the drop of a hat. Literally.

After all this time, the play remains as powerful and relevant as it ever was - after twenty years since I read it, fifty-some years since the play was written, eighty-six years after the Scopes trial on which Inherit the Wind was based took place. What are we fighting for in the name of righteousness? How do we fight for something without understanding what it is we're really fighting for? How do we cling to a belief that we can't defend? How do you defend the breaking of an indefensible law? I wish I could remember what I thought of this play twenty years ago. Maybe I am still asking the same questions. Maybe I already understood the answers, and have since forgotten them.

Inherit the Wind plays at the Erickson Theatre through October 8th, produced by the Strawberry Theatre Workshop. They do good work. You should support them.

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