Liminal vs Our Town: Bare-knuckled Berendzen Delivers A Knock Out
by Anne Richardson
Leo Daedalus makes a slithery Stage Manager in Liminal vs Our Town
There’s a moment in the third act of Liminal’s production of Our Town where Emily suddenly turns to the Stage Manager, and asks him a question. It is a tribute to director John Berendzen, founder of Portland’s most experimental theater troupe, that at that moment I truly thought Jahnavi Caldwell-Green, the luminous actress playing Emily, had gone off script. I knew Berendzen designed this production to create these moments of confusion, and even knowing that, I found myself watching the Stage Manager’s momentarily panicked expression and thinking, “Are we still in the play? Does he know what he’s supposed to say?”
John Berendzen chose Our Town on a dare. If you’re truly experimenting, he reasoned, then the biggest experiment would be to do America’s most performed play straight. His Our Town accepts the rules of Thornton Wilder’s dollhouse reality without resistance or irony. He doesn’t prod for the reasons behind our love for Grover’s Corner, with its milk wagons and choir rehearsals. He gives us the world Thornton Wilder wrote, where, unaware that they are doing exactly what they have been trained to do, Emily, who loves giving speeches, will fall in love with George, who forgets to do his chores. If you’re lazy, that’s the entire plot of Our Town.
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