By Julia Morizawa, Knightsbridge Member
This past weekend I went over to Son of Semele to see their original play, “Wallowa: the Vanishing of Maude LeRay.” My friend Jonathan CK Williams is in the show, so I was excited to check it out because I hadn’t seen him on stage in a while. And I have to say, it currently stands as the best show I’ve seen all year!
“Wallowa” has apparently been in the works for about 2 years, starting as a mere concept conceived by director Don Boughton. He first read about the story in the newspaper while traveling through Oregon. And the Son of Semele company developed the show (writing credit goes to Oliver Mayer) through improvisation and experimentation. It is based on the true story of a 76-year-old woman who got lost in the treacherous mountains of Eastern Oregon and was missing for about two weeks before she was miraculously found by a volunteer search and rescue team, in relatively impressive physical condition for the circumstances.
The final presented piece explores the perspectives of Maude’s husband, racked with guilt for having gotten them lost in the first place, their two children, the search and rescue team, and a fictionalized idea of what Maude may have experienced while she was lost. It makes use of a beautiful, mobile set (apparently inspired by an artist, whom I cannot recall), very elaborate and impressive lighting design, an incorporation of visual media, haunting sound effects (some of which were vocalized by the ensemble cast), and fluid physical movement. The fictionalized story of Maude’s experience (or hallucinations) incorporated Nez Perce Creation myths, serving as a tribute to the American Indian heritage in Eastern Oregon.
The ensemble cast consisting of twelve performers was quite flawless. No one stood out as being a weak link, which is something I see commonly in a lot of shows. Everyone was extremely strong, however Dee Amerio Sudik as Maude and Alexander Wright as her husband, Howard, were my personal faves. Every casting member was committed as individuals (whether performing as humans or animals), and committed to the ensemble. You know that whole cheesy joke when a stage actor is asked to “be a tree?” Yeah, well, it wasn’t cheesy when these guys did it.
“Wallowa” only runs for a couple/few more weeks, so if you’re in search of an impressive piece of live theatre that may make you tear up at the end (I sure did), go check this one out! It performs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 4:00pm. Go to www.sonofsemele.org for complete details.
“Wallowa: the Vanishing of Maude LeRay”
directed by Don Boughton
written by Oliver Mayer
starring Sarah Boughton, Sharyn Gabriel, Daniel Getzoff, Gabriel Liebeskind, Gina Manziello, Matthew McCray, Diana Payne, Alex Smith, Dee Sudik, Alex Wells, Jonathan CK Williams and Alexander Wright.