by Joe Mader of the East Bay Monthly, published August, 2001
You could view Sherwood
Anderson's gorgeous novel, Winesburg, Ohio: Tales of the Grotesques,
as a collection of uniquely American fairy tales. Anderson's fictional
town is replete with figurative princes and princesses, witches and
trolls, and curses of loneliness and unfulfilled dreams are passed down
from generation to generation. The town slumbers feverishly until a
knight (well, a writer) touches it with beauty.
Theatre company Word for Word, which turns well known prose into drama
without changing any of the author's words, teams up with Shotgun Players
to bring four of Winesburg, Ohio's tales to life (the book is
a series of connected stories). Winesburg has been dramatized
several times before, but Word for Word will use the actual stories
for their script, not a dramatic adaptation.
Word for Word's last major production, the first chapter of Upton Sinclair's
Oil!, exhibited both the company's genius and its faults. The
troupe vividly evoked the book's landscape and past history, but the
production suffered from overdramatization in spots -- resulting in
some silly acting class exercises, like actors swaying and saying "whoosh"
to portray trees in the wind. But when things go right, you witness
exciting, innovative theatre.
Winesburg, Ohio is directed by Word for Word charter member Delia
MacDougall and features a number of actors from both companies (including
Shotgun artistic director Patrick Dooley in a rare acting role). Word
for Word has proven repeatedly that it values, respects, and understands
both prose and drama. When they mount Anderson's sublime stories, Word
for Word will no doubt cast a spell all their own.
(c) 2001 San Francisco Weekly