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Theater Review: Crazy 8

Theater Artists Olympia stages Arthur Kopit's raucous "Chamber Music"

Theater Artists Olympia present Arthur Kopit's "Chamber Music," an absurdist black comedy set in the year 1939. Courtesy photo

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Chamber Music by Arthur Kopit is an absurdist one-act play set in 1939 and performed by Theater Artists Olympia, or TAO. It is TAO's 11th season and their website states, "TAO is a collective of local artists committed to producing high quality theater. TAO's focus is on producing more thematically provocative materials, and experimental interpretations of classics than generally found in the Olympia area. Our mission is to present creative theatrical pieces that are under-represented in the community."

Chamber Music definitely fills that role.

The dark comedy is an ensemble piece with a mostly female cast. It is rare to have a ratio of eight out of 10 female characters and even more rare for those characters to be of any substance.

The story opens up with "Woman who plays records" (Amanda Stevens) entering a room set with a table, some chairs, an old record player and a rack of clothes. She puts a record on and begins to sing along showcasing her lovely operatic voice as she opens the window. The other women file in, each in wildly different garb, finding places to sit or milling about, interacting with the other women. One of the women closes the window with the reminder that they "must keep the window closed." Very quickly we realize they are all inmates in an insane asylum. Each of them believes she is a famous woman from history. They have been elected by the other inmates to meet once per year to bring grievances and suggestions to the administrators. They are concerned about a perceived threat from the men's ward and they attempt to create a solution.

Each of the female characters is quite distinct and the women chosen to play them are fantastic in maintaining the subtle - and sometimes overt - mannerisms and quirks of the unstable. In addition to Amanda Stevens whose character believes she is Mozart's wife, the other woman are Kim Holm as the explorer Osa Johnson, Kate Ayers as Gertrude Stein, Vanessa Postil as silent film star Pearl White, Cheyenne Logan as Amelia Earhart, Priscilla Zal as Queen Isabella I of Spain, Alayna Chamberland as Joan of Arc and Debbie Sampson as Susan B. Anthony. Postil's sweet and innocent portrayal of Pearl White (before taking an unsettling turn) is a stark contrast to Zal's chilling portrayal of Queen Isabella I.

All of the women were fantastic in their roles and were quite convincing of madness.

CHAMBER MUSIC, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, through May 10, The Midnight Sun, 113 Columbia St., Olympia, $12 at, 360.259.2743

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