Chamber Music (October 31, 2003)

Theater Artists of Olympia strike up with ‘Chamber Music’

by JW Ficker for the Sitting Duck

Theater Artists of Olympia are exactly what they claim, artists. I recently saw their production of Chamber Music by Arthur Kopit which ran during the month of November. A story of eight famous women (from Queen Isabella of Spain to Susan B. Anthony) having an annual meeting in a mental institution where they are all patients. The meeting includes Gertrude Stein’s reading of the minutes and Amelia Earhart’s attempting to authenticate her identity. TAO director Pug Bujeaud added an opening scene of a woman in a straight jacket singing Making Whoopee, which nicely set the stage for the conversations to follow.

I thought the script’s author mishandled his opportunities with these women of history. The script left me looking for something more to come of this conversation in an asylum addressing decorum to cannibalism with mental patients cared for by an all male staff. I wasn’t sure what response the author had in mind for his audience. However, it was well after my departure from the theater, somewhere downtown with a cocktail that these thoughts showed up in a self important, overly analytical theater conversation with friends. This is exactly what I want from a night of theater.

The show entertained with well delivered black comedy. I sat next to a man whose laugh filled the 70 seat house at the Mariah Arts School repeatedly. Solid performances by all the actors, including the well used cross dressing men playing Gertrude Stein and Joan of Arc, displayed TAO’s professionalism and pool of talent.

After the show I had an opportunity to talk with Bujeaud and asked for the TAO story. The artists, Olympia Little Theater board members, Harlequin regulars, members of the former Abbey Players, Evergreen Playhouse and others, all signed on with the intention of making a type of theater that these members feel is absent from Olympia. Financed by performing mystery dinner theaters at Eastern Washington and private parties, TAO looks to take on other dark comedies and touchy dramas.

Next fall they look to produce another full blown stage project and in the mean time keep at the mystery theater. If their staging of Chamber Music is indicative of what TAO can do, Olympia has some good theater conversations yet to come.