© 2013 Idaho Statesman
It's pretty cool that in Boise you can sit in a theater with the playwright and watch a new play come into existence. It's an experience that the artists at Boise Contemporary Theater have afforded their audience during the past few years.
Eric Coble's "Graphic Depictions," which opened this weekend, is the latest in this slate of new plays produced by artistic director Matthew Cameron Clark. This is the second world premiere production of a Coble play at BCT. His "Velocity of Autumn," part of BCT's 2010 season, is now headed for Broadway.
"Graphic Depictions," a solo character play, features actor Tracy Sunderland in the role of Alexa. Sunderland has returned to BCT after a four-year hiatus. And she's back with a bang in this tour de force of language and emotion.
The play is set as a mystery. Something terrible has happened to Alexa. It's up to the audience to figure it out as her story jumps around in time. Her life is clearly defined by "before" and "after" the tragic happening.
Meanwhile, global warming has created a crisis and the sky is literally falling, a situation in which Alexa orchestrates a creative, if surreal, reaction.
There are few actors who could maintain the emotional pitch needed to sustain this story. Sunderland is a consummate storyteller. She brings humor to dire situations and unearths a few surprising moments.
Director Dwayne Blackaller guides Sunderland through Coble's densely poetic script with an even hand and a subtle physical vocabulary.
Peter Still's sometimes barely audible sound design helps create a tension that builds to a final release. When it's coupled with Raquel Davis' lighting, it creates the play's brightest and most beautiful moment.
However, this play finishes the season the same way the season began. "Graphic Depictions" is the fourth play that is either a solo character performance or that involves a narrator. The entire season felt like an experiment in storytelling-theater rather than the more visceral, physical approaches of BCT's past performances.
And this is wordy effort. Coble piles references to Greek mythology and philosophy - Plato's cave, the birth of Aphrodite - on top of Alexa's family stories. Its poetry and heady ideas create a jungle of metaphor and reference and become both strength and weakness.
It's hard to suspend the moment without becoming conscious of the question: How did she memorize all this dialogue? Some of the lines are beautifully ironic and insightful; others feel forced and indulgent. But that may evolve through this and future productions.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland