Sometimes it's hard just to live
A trip to the Actors' Warehouse is always a special, thought provoking experience. I knew very little about the Actors' Warehouse production MUD but I thought I was prepared for what is described as a dark, abysmal story of poverty, enabled relationships, and co-existing in the depressed era of the 1930s.
Two things excited me about MUD is the creative types setting the stage for this very dark play:
Cuban born playwright Maria Irene Fornes is recognized by many as, "the best American playwright in the 20th century that nobody knows." Ms. Fornes has written over 40 plays winning nine Obie Awards and was a finalist for a 1990 Pulitzer Prize award with her play And What Of The Night? The accomplished playwright believes theater is the perfect place where the audience can 'receive' the story and achieve identification with the characters.
Long time Gainesville artistic elder Carlos Francisco Asse has taken the Director's seat for this production with zeal and is excited about sharing the stage with his fellow Latin American colleague in this production of a Maria Irene Fornes play. According to the MUD program notes Carlos had met Ms. Fornes over thirty years ago at a conference and she suggested Gainesville's Hippodrome troupe put on a rendition of MUD at the time. "It didn't work out for our Hipp team to do the play." Carlos sad. Ultimately MUD won a seventh OBIE Award for the playwright that year," Carlos added.
The Actors' Warehouse interpretation of MUD fulfills house objectives in creating a compelling, spellbinding story rising above the physical squalor of the lives of these three, marginal subjects of society.
The story opens with Mae (Lola Bond) living in bleak rural poverty, scrounging out an existence by ironing clothes for customers. Mae has dreams of a better life and is going to school struggling with the complexities of reading and simple math classes.
Mae shares her meager dwelling with Lloyd (Michael Sorge) an illiterate pig farmer with serious health issues and bouts of jealousy. Lloyd derides Mae's attempt at bettering herself with disdain and contempt for the idea of learning something new.
Lloyd becomes ill, Mae goes searching for a diagnosis, and seeks assistance from their neighbor Henry (Adam Lishawa) helping Mae understand the difficult medical language. A love triangle ensues between the characters creating a toxic background love, respect, impatience and resentment.
The ensuing love / hate triangle that brews between the three creates a toxic environment. Mae's love and respect for Henry turns to impatience and resentment after an accident renders him helpless. Mae decides there is no escaping the ill-luck of her life, and decides she must escape these men who depend upon her rob her of her own dreams. Trying to be hopeful Mae sees the angst building between the two men leaving her with little recourse but to plan an escape from this bleak world of stagnant lives and very little chance of change.
Light & Sound Technician Josephine Jones, and Stage Manager Sabrina Jones effortlessly moved this bleak environment of a one-room shanty through the multiple venues of emotional duress with smart lighting and theatricalyticks and cues.
The stage becomes the palette of anxiety, and duress allowing the male actors the creative mobility of displaying their anger, and dismissive attitude toward the woman of the house keeping this group of misplaced bottom dwellers from sinking deeper for an impoverished, desperate third time.
Lighting Designer Robert P. Robins, and Set Designer Carlos Francisco Asse created a tightly knit environment of the simple tenement surroundings you would expect in this baseline existence of hope and despair. Mr. Asse's utilization of lighting on the stage set the tone of impending doom.
AW Actors' Adana Lishawa and Michael Sorge quickly laid the groundwork presenting misguided choices, and opportunities to Mae while trying, as best as they knew how, to convince her things really weren't as bad as they appeared.
What a powerful story of sick, enabling, co-dependency. Carlos and Maria Irene are correct implying there are no real winners, successful outcomes in MUD.
The GLOB Master is getting the creeps about how I am seeing songs, lyrics quickly after these great plays summarizing in simple words the meaning of what I just saw. In Randy Newman's song of desperate need mentioned in today's Daily GLOB songwriter segment Baltimore, he sings in exasperation about another place, and time declaring, "Man it's hard just to live."
After the show I chuckled thinking of a good line from long time pal Tom O'Hara who often said while we were publishing the newspaper in the G-Sun's glory days. "You know Mike we are all just on our own treadmill to oblivion." Perhaps that's why Ms. Fornes succinctly titled this dark story of zero hope and ambition as clear as MUD.
EDITOR's NOTE: Special Thanks to the Actors Warehouse for use of the MUD images above. The Actor's Warehouse production of MUD continues through this upcoming weekend with shows Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more Information.