Saturday, March 25, 2006

9 Acts of Determination

In the Portland area, we're used to being rebels. We speak out. We make noise. We fight the perceived injustices and try to make it better.

Sometimes though, we need to sit and reflect on just what we're making noise about.

The Sojourn Theatre is giving us that reflective opportunity right now.

Their 9 Acts of Determination is currently holding performances to wonderful reviews:

A surprising meditation on war that's both unsettling and memorable without preaching. Sojourn Theatre has blown apart the tenets of the normal drama, and 9 Acts is a work that's only partially reconstructed. The tone ranges from action movie to fairy tale to frank conversation with the audience, and there's nothing that resembles a plot. 9 Acts refuses to hand over any simple answers. Steady, honest justifications for why we fight counterbalance the theme that death is a tragedy that does not diminish with quantity. Every time the play arrives at a nice digestible conclusion, the actors yank it away and go on to deepen the conversation. Each actor inhabits dozens of characters that shift fluidly through the play. They tackle war and grief without ever edging into maudlin, and the moments of humor (yes, humor) are genuine and well-timed. Tahni Holt (Monster Squad dance company) gives the performance a remarkable physicality with her choreography. The play's rare weak spots really come when the actors are bickering over why we fight. It's supposed to highlight the intensity of disagreement, but there are moments when one is reminded that there's a fine line between watching an onstage argument and a high-school debate practice. The only static character is the director Michael Rohd, who's essentially playing himself. As the savvy director, he knows the futility of trying to discuss and evaluate the human propensity for war—after all, we've been doing it forever. He seems to admit that he may be tilting at windmills, but he tugs on the audience's sleeve anyway, as if to say, "Don't we at least need to try?" JONATHAN WEATHERFORD

Ticket information is available here.