Get Acquainted with Annie Baker

UNO Students Offer Alien Slackers

Add this to your “timing is everything” list. FAUST (Fine Arts University Student Theatre) will better acquaint us with the work of Annie Baker, just a week before her play Aliens would have been overshadowed by a huge opening at the Playhouse.

Its second weekend will compete with August: Osage County, the award-winning dark comedy by Tracy Letts. So I’m declaring this Annie Baker Week in Omaha if only to magnify the opportunity to better know the playwright first performed here when her Circle Mirror Transformation was a staged reading in the Omaha Community Playhouse 21 & Over series.

Her Transformation and Aliens shared an Obie Award for their off-Broadway debuts, and her earlier Body Awareness was also honored by critics. All three are set in her imaginary village of Shirley, Vermont.

What should you know about Annie Baker? Of most immediate importance, you can see her full-length Aliens at 8 p.m. Aug. 9-11 and 16-18 outdoors at the Castle of Perseverance north of the University of Nebraska at Omaha Weber Fine Arts Building. It’s free to UNO students and only $5 for others.

And I’m glad I wasn’t the journalist who innocently asked her, “Why do you write plays?” She began crying so hard she had to hang up.

But that’s not what makes me anxious to add this play to my Annie awareness. More intriguing  are the caveats in a very complimentary New York Times review.

For example, “Pauses stretch to epic proportions.” And “scenes move at the loping pace of real life,” and would “lumber and stall with less than perfect performances.”

Okay, FAUST and director Steve Hartman, tackle that challenge, show us your stuff. Still, the burden doesn’t all fall on Hartman and his cast.

The story of two very low-energy slackers who hang out in the grubby backyard of a coffee house where they enlighten a teen-age employee who drags the joint’s garbage out has been compared to viewing an unshowy, unheralded painting by an old master. Too subtle for a quick glance, “The longer you look, the more you see and the more you feel.”

In short, it’s full of telling detail, warm and offbeat humor and labeled “an incredibly delicate drama” that treats its losers tenderly.

The clincher? Its comparison to Samuel Beckett’s brilliant Waiting for Godot. And it doesn’t hurt that Baker’s work has been called Chekhovian, an influence that may be inspired by her rewriting of Uncle Vanya. So stay home or share the challenge.

 

Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to coldcream@thereader.com.

posted at 06:57 pm
on Sunday, August 05th, 2012

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