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BWW Preview: Westmont Has a GOOD DAY and Goes MAD & A GOAT with Alumni Talent

Playwright Diana Lynn Small

This fall's blistering heat wave makes spending the afternoon in an air-conditioned theatre an appealing alternative to almost any other activity. Fall also means the beginning of a new semester and the impending productions at the local high schools and universities, including UCSB, SBCC, and Westmont College. Despite its small size, the Westmont theatre program consistently puts out productions of excellent quality, including the recent end-of-summer theatre festival featuring three shows: The Lover (by Harold Pinter), Poor, Poor Lear, Nina Sallinen's one-woman Lear adaptation (by Nina Sallinen and Katya Krohn), and a reboot performance of Lit Moon's successful production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard.

Poor, Poor Lear

Talented local performer Nina Sallinen performed her dynamic one-woman show, a re-imagined King Lear in which an aging actress uses a solo performance of Lear to prove to her children, who are pushing her to relocate to an assisted living facility, that she's still the relevant, self-sufficient star of the stage she was in younger years. Sallinen's reinterpretation of Shakespeare's masterwork maintains the cantankerous qualities of the old King in her construction of both the Lear character and the old actress. Sallinen's piece is vibrant and interactive, and Lear's madness, senility, and resentment are portrayed on dual levels: the level of the play, Poor, Poor Lear, and the meta-level of the play-within-the-play, the abridged King Lear. Sallinen's version of Lear highlights the most potent themes of the show--it's perceptive and layered, and utilizes language from the original play to bridge the gap between the aging actress and the old king. Originally performed in Finland, Sallinen's one-woman performance is an excellent way to experience Lear. Make it a priority to see this show upon it's next remount!

The Lover

T he Lover, by Harold Pinter, is an intriguing and sometimes cryptic show presented in the black box space. Featuring Matthew Tavianini and Paige Tautz, The Lover, directed by Lauren White Hall, shows two actors each playing two different roles: Tavianini plays the husband and his wife's lover, and Tautz plays the wife and her husband's prostitute. These identities manifest and at unexpected junctures, creating the possibility of four different conversations from the four character combinations. Constant and purposefully ambiguous shifts in character keeps audiences mentally and emotionally engaged in the less-than-linear story structure. I certainly hope this performance makes it onto the list of shows that Lit Moon keeps in rep.

Westmont College is opening two plays in the next two weekends: Good Day and Mad & A Goat, both written by alumnus Diana Lynn Small, and performed by student and alumni performers. Good Day follows a woman who returns home, only to find an exterminator, a wasps' nest, and a hunger strike standing literally between her and her house. Good Day promises a balance of humor and poignancy as characters explore anguish, tenderness, and compromise. Mad & A Goat features alumni Heather Johnson and Paige Tautz, and presents the story of a woman's journey to pay off her college debt by working on a goat farm she inherits from eccentric family members.

This fall semester also brings other assorted performances in a variety of styles to Westmont's Porter Theater and Black Box Theater later in November. Secondhand is a depiction of college seniors navigating their impending transition into "adult life." Some Enchanted Evening is a concert showcase of students singing Broadway showtunes. Some Enchanted Evening is a fundraiser for a student trip to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Finally, just in time for the winter holidays, Westmont concludes their fall semester/seaon (and the 2015 year!) with a remount of Humbug!, Lit Moon's extraordinary version of Dickens' classic story of redemption, A Christmas Carol.

Westmont is presenting this series of plays over the next several weeks, from mid-October through mid-December. From Good Day to Humbug, Westmont is providing an exciting variety of theatrical works that showcase the talented students, alumni, and faculty of the Westmont Theatre Program.

Check Out Information For Upcoming Events Here.

Written by Diana Lynn Small '09
Directed by Mitchell Thomas
October 16, 17, 22, 23, 24 at 7 p.m.
Porter Theatre

Written and directed by Diana Lynn Small '09
Featuring Heather Johnson '10 and Paige Tautz '14
October 22, 23, 24 at 9 p.m.
Black Box Theatre at Westmont College

Devised and Performed by Connor Bush
November 6-7 at 8 p.m.
Black Box Theatre at Westmont College

Directed by Mitchell Thomas
November 13 at 9 p.m.?November 14 at 8 p.m.
Porter Theatre at Westmont College

Written by Charles Dickens
Directed by John Blondell
December 17-19 at 7:30 p.m.
Porter Theatre at Westmont College

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