Strong acting, powerful message in ‘Paradise Lost’

  • Thu Apr 1st, 2010 3:07pm
  • Life

By Theresa Goffredo Herald Writer

Clifford Odets said of his 1935 play “Paradise Lost” that he hoped that after people see it, “They’re going to be glad they’re alive.”

And glad not to be a middle-class business owner facing bankruptcy, homelessness and the tragic reconfiguring of his family.

“Paradise Lost,” playing at Intiman Theatre, is a gritty, meaty look at the Gordon family during the Great Depression. It features a full plate of 14 extremely robust actors who take the tension in this drama and serve it so thick it’s like cutting pot roast with a butter knife.

These are amazing actors who put on impressive performances. Among them are Matt Gottlieb as the Gordons’ family friend Gus, who came off like every family’s crazy yet trustworthy “uncle.”

The chemistry-packed pair of Lori Larsen and Michael Mantell, played Clara and Leo Gordon. Larsen was hilariously sarcastic, Mantell was solid as a rock and both were stunning.

Shawn Law played former track star Ben Gordon as energetically as a runner before the race gun goes off.

“Paradise Lost” shows the ruin of the Gordons as Leo and his partner Sam lose their handbag business. The story basically hits home with a steady relentlessness that when the economy goes into the toilet, so much can get sucked down with it.

Perhaps Intiman’s “Paradise Lost” does too good a job of showing us that the world, does indeed, have a “profound dislocation.” We’re happy to be alive but exhausted in the end. We’ve girded ourselves for this three-act drama and longed for some hopefulness in the end, but really didn’t get that much.

We’re left with the message that “no man fights alone.”

When we look to the rest of Intiman’s season for a little emotional relief, there isn’t much there, either.

Intiman’s season, under the new leadership of artistic director Kate Whoriskey, who takes over for Bartlett Sher (recently named artistic director emeritus), is packed with productions that send powerful messages, evoke emotions and educate.

A little Moliere provides some comic relief but otherwise it’s some weighty stuff.

I applaud Whoriskey’s commitment to continue where Sher left off, maintaining the goal of putting out new and diverse voices and being “intellectually questioning and adventurous.” I do hope, however, that Whoriskey might add to the mix more shows in which we can simply escape.

Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; goffredo@heraldnet.com.

“Paradise Lost”

Various times through April 25 at Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer St., Seattle. Tickets range from $25 to $61. Call 206-269-1900 or go to www.intiman.org.