Culture Vulture-The Playback’s the Thing
David La Graffe is a name that can strike fear in hearts of unassuming Portland actors...and, audiences like the results.
Fearful actors are not so because David is a theater critic. Rather, if you're good enough to think you really know how to act, David will say, casually, "So...how about some improv?" And, off you go, he, grinning like Alice's cat. He especially enjoys taking someone through an improvisation if they have an interesting story---that he and his assembled actors will play back by acting it out--in front of a packed house at Community TV on Congress Street, right in the thick of First Friday. Portland Playback Theater Company, of which David is the Artistic Director, and member of the ensemble. Quite the job to have!
I vulched in on May 2nd, and was blown away: it was SRO starting at 7:30, and people stayed through the end, almost two hours later. Thematically, May 2nd was about "truth". And the stories volunteered by several in the audience were astounding: one about dealing with people on a truly basic level, after social exclusion; one about family extensions threading their way back home to Maine; one about saying good-bye to aging, dying family members with seriously unexpected results. And, the actors adroitly played them all back with song, or "fluid sculpture" and other acting exercises, more singing, mood music, and seriously good acting.
The Playback Troupe, numbering 5 that night, with more in the "back pocket", did their job without first discussing what they would do, or, often, without even looking at each other...and yet, acting as a single unit. Thrilling to watch and listen to superb interpretations, and to witness the true listening each actor was capable of. That alone--to "see how to listen better"--is worth the $7 admission.
Wholly cool, respectful, joyous, irreverent, liberating for story-sharers, actors and audience. The actors glowed afterwards, spent. See them play back stories of Triumphs Over Adversity June 6th at CTN on Congress.