BWW Review: Political Machinations from Theatre9/12's THE LEAGUE OF YOUTH

BWW Review: Political Machinations from Theatre9/12's THE LEAGUE OF YOUTH
Michael Ramquist, Zandi Carlson, Sara Claflin,
Rachel D. Pate, and Tom Ryan in
The League of Youth from Theatre9/12.
Photo credit: Michael Brunk, NWLens

A young idealist comes to town with an aim to take down the rich fat cats who have rigged the government to only work in their favor only to be swayed by the trappings of their wealth and power. Sounds like something from our government today but no, I'm referring to Henrik Ibsen's play, as adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, "The League of Youth", currently being offered from Theatre9/12, examining the goings on in a small town in Norway, 1869. I guess political corruption has been around as long as there has been politics.

In Ibsen's play we meet Stensgaard (Tom Ryan), a handsome, charismatic, young man who is new to town from the city and doesn't understand why people kowtow to Chamberlin Brattsberg (Michael Ramquist), the wealthiest man in town. So, he's persuaded by the wealthiest woman in town Mrs. Monsen (Rachel D. Pate) and local businessman Mr. Hejre (Tom Stewart) to use his gift for gab to make his own play for local office with their support. He rallies the young and disenfranchised and soon forms The League of Youth. Brattsberg realizes he's dismissed the young man too quickly and invites him to brunch with him and his daughter Thora (Zandi Carlson) and Stensgaard's ideals are quickly manipulated by money and power and puts him in a position from which even his quick tongue may not be able to save him.

In this adaptation Hatcher lets the humor and sexual intrigue (as much as there could be in 1869) shine though and the folks at Theatre9/12 under the direction of Charles Waxberg seem to love to wallow in it. However, I feel they could have grabbed on and wallowed even more at times. Some seem to dive into the deep end of that tone while others felt a bit restrained hanging out in the shallow end. With a show like this everyone needs to be fully committed or it can feel uneven.

Ryan pulls off the charm and confident swagger perfectly and manages to show off how much of a fool this smart man really is in that he's so easily manipulated. Barely leaving stage he carries the show nicely however at times he needed to be more present with his fellow actors making a stronger connection. It picked up by Act Two so it could have been an off night but that kind of connection could take an already wonderful performance to new heights. Nobody pulls off bluster and rage like Ramquist and his realization of what the young man was really describing during "the fable" was a delight. Stewart manages a devious, two-faced schemer with grace and aplomb and scarcely even lets you know he's doing it. Pate brings in a power and presence to the role making her impossible not to watch and you can see why the young man is swayed. And I must mention Margaret Bicknell, Robert Alan Barnett, and Ryan St. Martin who certainly dove into the deep end of that tone I mentioned and were hilarious.

Theatre9/12 boasts themselves as an actor's collective who meets weekly with these works to hone their craft and you can certainly see the work they put in with their full productions. But with this one, I think they could have gone even further. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Theatre9/12's production of "The League of Youth" a YAY-. Everyone needs to dive into that deep end. The water's lovely out there.

"The League of Youth" from Theatre9/12 performs at Trinity Parish Hall through July 29th. As always, all performances with Theatre9/12 are pay what you can afford. For information on the show or reservations visit them online at www.theatre912.com.

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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