Last night Angie and I ventured over to The Falcon Theatre to catch Matt Walker's Troubadour Theater Company's A Wither's Tale. Actually, 'ventured' may be a bit strong because the theatre (The Falcon is Garry Marshall's beautiful 130 seat venue) is about five minutes from us. We often eat at Mo's right across the street and I've always wanted to see the inside of The Falcon.
If there is a more perfect example of 'the complete actor' than Matt Walker on the planet earth, I've not seen it. He's a breathtakingly talented man. At times singing soulfully, dancing with complete confidence and control, exhibiting razor sharp comic timing and then, astonishingly, acting snippets of Shakespeare like nobody's business. He is surrounded by some tremendously talented folk but still manages to tower over everyone else on stage with absolute ease. The last time I saw someone command a stage so overwhelmingly was Ian McKellan in the exhausting Wild Honey by Chekov on Broadway some twenty years ago. Malkovich managed to do the same sort of thing in Burn This but he had a good stretch of time off stage in that play.
In any event, I've heard about this company since I first arrived in LA. Angie is friends with Matt and a couple of others in the company and has been a fan of their work for some years now. She tried to explain what the company did to me and, frankly, I thought it sounded a bit on the silly side. Which it is. It's also executed with the precision of a marine drill. As readers of this blog will know, I fancy myself, while not exactly a Shakespearean purist, certainly someone who takes exception with the liberties often taken with the Aristotlean Unities with regards to his work. But again, sometimes it doesn't bother me at all as with, again, McKellan's remarkable Richard III done at Brooklyn Academy of the Arts. In that famous production, later filmed, McKellan set the whole thing in NAZI Germany. It worked beautifully.
But back to A Wither's Tale. The company takes the plays of The Bard and envelops them in the music of a particular contemporary artist/musician. Earlier productions include Fleetwood Macbeth and As U2 Like It.
The energy and irreverence of the company reminded me of The House Theater of Chicago, although in their case the work is all original.
Honestly, I was fully prepared for an evening of dumb theatre. And in a few instances, it was. But it is the smartest 'dumb theatre' I think I've ever seen. Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale is one of his more complicated and predictable plays. There is a reason it is not known as one of his magnum opuses. Or is it Opi? Hm.
Nothing pleases me more than to take in a night of theatre with a small company and be utterly surprised and delighted. It happens so rarely. There is, I'm sorry to say, so very, very much bad theatre out there. It is one of the reasons it is so difficult to get an audience with small theatre - people are gun shy. They've been burned so often in the past, they're just not willing to part with 20 or 25 bucks to see another bad play badly done. And what's more, I completely understand that. It's one of the reasons we had so much trouble finding an audience the first couple of weeks with Praying Small. The play mounted at NoHo Arts immediately before Praying Small was a night of one acts that was as bad as it gets. Just awful stuff. The difference is, of course, is that The Troubadour Company, rightly so, already has a host of die hard fans. They've been doing this sort of thing, according to the program, some 15 years or so.
Well, Matt Walker can now count me as one of his die hard fans. I can't wait to see the next production from this group.
Aside from Walker, who is quite simply electric on stage, there are some amazing performance from some of the other cast members: Brandon Breault is very funny as is Katherine Malak. Joseph Keane is a really remarkable dancer/actor/singer. It's difficult to watch anyone else during the dance numbers. Travis Clark is wholly connected to the material and gives a stodgy and always amusing and centered performance. Beth Kennedy, too, really, really funny at times. Any one of them would have stolen a show that did not have Matt Walker in it.
For my LA readers, here's something you've never seen me write: Go See This Play. It's some of the most original, intelligent, outrageous stuff on stage anywhere, anytime. It made me envious of those who have been in the loop with this company for productions past.
Angie was, yet again, absolutely right. This is great theatre.
See you tomorrow.