Peg and I recently finished a short story mystery called “Only the Lonely.” It mentioned CenterStage and the antics involved in their yearly Panto. Last year’s Puss and Boots featured a hilarious scene of standing behind a table and going up and down the stairs and elevators. The actors would appear to be walking or disappearing as they went to the basement and then coming back up to the stage. Of course there was no basement, both actors involved did a fantastic job. Taylor Davis (on the left), one of the basement walkers, was our favorite member of the cast for Puss and Boots. It was so nice to see her again as Then Jane in Oregon Trail.
I don’t often have a chance to read the director’s notes or the dramaturgy note before a production. Dramaturge Sophia Carey had very interesting information to share about the play: “Video games, plays, and life all have at least one thing in common: in order to move through them you must make choices. Yet Bekah Brunstetter’s The Oregon Trail is as much about the choices Jane doesn’t make – the choice she doesn’t get – than those she does. Inspired by classic video game, Brustetter’s play features “the Game” as a character – at times Jane’s friend, at times something more sinister – who is in a close relationship with the choices Jane makes.”
The play was directed by Jeanette Sanchez. She earned her BFA in Acting and MA in Directing/Educational Theatre at the University of New Mexico. She is a board member of Tacoma Little Theatre and is a City of Tacoma Arts Commissioner.
The Oregon Trail is a story of a young student Jane and her older sister Mary Anne. The story involves their grandmother and the electronic game The Oregon Trail. What makes the story interesting is the struggle of the grandmother traveling from Missouri to Oregon in the late 1800s. They used the correct pronunciation of MissourAH instead of MissourEE. I was born in MissourAH and always pronounce it with the AH sound.
Years ago I always saw TV shows and western movies with excited families in Conestoga wagons traveling westward eagerly to a better world. But the reality is that not all people, and certainly not all families wanted to face the hardships of leaving relatives and facing the unknown and leaving parts of their lives behind.
The Game: Instead of relying on an electronic game, we have the electronic game PLUS. Kyle Sinclair plays the part of The Game. He advises Now Jane (current times) on how the game works, but adds his own commentary. He’s almost like comedy relief. We first saw Kyle in Peter & the Starcatcher at Lakewood Playhouse and then again in The Producers as the hilarious Franz Liebkind. There is one scene in The Oregon Trail where he is thrown to the floor and he incredibly jumps back up in a single bound.
Taylor Davis as Then Jane (olden days) doesn’t want to leave Missoura, but her father (Ben Stahl) has already made the decision. In the 1800s women had very little sway on decisions. Her sister and she argue all the time, just like Now Jane and her sister Mary Anne. Ben Stahl has been active over the last ten years at local Tacoma theatres, but this is his first time with CenterStage.
David Breyman plays the part of Billy. Billy has been a sexy attraction for Now Jane. David is a graduate of Cornish College of the Arts and will soon be on the road with Taproot Theatre. Billy and The Game do not get along. While Billy and Now Jane toast each other, The Game waves a red warning flag to Now Jane. She ignores the advice.
The Janes command much of the action in The Oregon Trail. Now Jane has the audience pulling for her. Petulance and bad decisions have us hoping she finds herself and succeeds with The Oregon Trail. Then Jane does not go gentle into that good night. She ends up being all we hope for in a pioneer woman. Determination is something we keep hoping will rub off of Then Jane and help Now Jane make correct decisions.
Peg and I brought along my sister and a long time friend to see the production. We briefly talked about the play with the couple behind us and then the four of us discussed the production for much of the ride back to Tacoma. Our friend Jan wrote a glowing review immediately when she got home and posted on Facebook.
The Oregon Trail runs through September 11th. For ticket information – app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=ctrwa