My friend Alison and I saw Part 2 of Book-It Theatre’s production of The Cider House Rules the other night and loved it, loved it, loved it. We saw Part 1 a few months ago, which was amazing, and I think Part 2 might have topped it. Taken from the book by John Irving, it’s got all those Irving-esque qualities we expect: a big, rollicking story with a huge cast of eccentric characters and lots of details specific to the Maine setting, plus plenty of lust, moral quandaries, and humor. The themes are quite mature — an ether-addicted obstetrician performs abortions and talks about them quite graphically, and there is simulated sex — so I don’t feel comfortable taking Lily to see it, but I sure wish I could.
Alison and I sat in the front row both times and the immediacy of sitting that close to such a small performance stage is intoxicating. The actors run up and down the aisles and all around the set. In fact, during Part 1, I was sitting on the aisle and an actress accidentally landed on me when she tripped on the stairs, temporarily injuring my right arm. She shocked me because I had no idea that I was about to be hit from behind, so when she asked me in a slight state of terror whether I was okay, I hurriedly told her, “I’m fine!” All I could think of was, “I don’t want to mess up the play!” and “Thank God Andy’s not here because this is exactly what he dislikes about live theater — that moment when you accidentally make eye contact with an actor.” I’m sure that being body blocked from behind by a woman hurtling down the stairs would have been enough to make him just get up and leave.
It’s not too late to see both Parts 1 and 2 of The Cider House Rules, if you missed Part 1. You can even see them on the same day, with dinner in-between. One year, for my birthday, Andy and I saw performances of Angels in America, Parts 1 and 2, on the same day, and though it was emotionally draining, it was completely fabulous. It was a huge gift on Andy’s part (see previous paragraph) and I am grateful. I will never forget how thrilling that was.
The performances in The Cider House Rules are, to a person, simply outstanding. The minimal stage works well and the choreographed movements of such a large cast over a long period of time are impeccable. I have no idea how they can move so fluidly and expertly in such a small space with various props and musicians and even some tap dancing. At one point, a bunch of cast members are crouched down on the floor, gently tapping on the floor to create the sound of raindrops on the roof and it works perfectly.
If I haven’t convinced you to go see it, then read this article that appeared in today’s Seattle Times, which might do the trick.