Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Rogue Theatre: Fear No Art

Fear No Art. That's the message on the tee shirt worn by male lead actor Joe McGrath when he and the cast of "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?" sat down facing the audience for the after-play discussion. The female lead is Cindy Meier, who co-founded The Rogue Theatre with Joe. As always, their performances were jaw-dropping. These two theater professionals have worked together so long, their stage interactions are perfectly in sync.

I can't say this play is entertaining, but it is by far the best I have seen in the three year history of The Rogue Theatre. Joe plays Martin, a successful architect at the pinnacle of his career. He enjoys loving relationships with his wife Stevie, and his gay eighteen-year-old son, Billy (Matt Bowdren). I am so proud of our friend Cindy, who is amazing as Stevie, a smart, self-assured, witty woman. Martin shatters the family's perfect life when he announces he is in love with a goat. The play is shocking, horrifying, violent, vulgar and intensely thought-provoking. Because of the last quality, the performance is a work of art, albeit very disturbing.

Joe said The Rogue Theatre does not want to do plays that reinforce the audience's preconceived notions. The troupe wants to challenge the audience to question their values and assumptions, and "The Goat" effectively does exactly that. Why do certain behaviors disgust us? Where does aberration end and mental illness begin? Where is the line between moral and immoral? Why do these lines shift with time, circumstances and communities?

Cindy's real-life husband Tom Wentzel is very involved with the theater group. Web site designer is one of the many hats he wears, and The Rogue Theatre web site is one of the most beautiful I've seen.

Tom warned us not to sit in the front row of this play's intimate venue, the magical Cabaret Theater, located upstairs from the Temple of Music and Art. He said it would be too intense. He was right. The people in the front row fled as soon as the actors took their bows. Most of the rest of us remained in our seats, wide-eyed and stunned. Tom said we looked like that guy in the stereo speaker ad, gripping his chair with his hair blown back, and that is just how I felt.

I recommend you go on one of the nights when the post-play discussion will be held, so the actors can help you start the process of evaluating the complex issues presented in the play. I know I will be thinking about this play for a long time.

"The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?" will play through January 20. Post-performance discussions on January 10, 13 and 17. Call 551-2053 for reservations and information.

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