For the week of January 27, 1999   thru February 2, 1999  

Park bench philosophers

Adam West and Bill Raymond read ‘The Duck Variations’ at SVC


By MARILYN BAUER
Express Staff Writer

Adam West has never performed in the Wood River Valley.

It took the persistence of Interplanetary Theatre founder Jonathan Kane to persuade this veteran of more than 50 films, five television series and innumerable stage performances to take the stage with former Mabou Mines member Bill Raymond in David Mamet’s endearing drama, "The Duck Variations."

On Friday evening at 7 p.m. at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities in Ketchum, West and Raymond will read the play directed by Kathy Wygle as the ninth entry in the center’s play reading series produced by Kane.

"Jon Kane has been stalking me," West laughed. "And, the unusual thing is, you don’t get many male stalkers. So I had to pay some attention to him. And boy, he finally cornered me and I read the first, second, third, fourth, eighth thing he gave me, and I hated all of them."

"But like Bill," West continued, "to me ‘The Duck Variations’ is enticing in that it’s a marvelous metaphor from a very simple standpoint. Bill and I are two old men sitting on a park bench looking out on a lake."

"I fell in love with the play, the simplicity of it, the wisdom, and mostly the humor. To me it’s very hip and funny. And to have a chance to work with someone like Bill Raymond, who has had gigantic parts in the theater…"

"There’s another reason, too," West said, "and I hope you take this in the right way. I don’t like to work with amateurs. I’ve tried it in the past, and I’ve found it frustrating and unsatisfying. And I’ve always been a little gun shy since. Because they’re in it for their own good reasons: social, a creative outlet, whatever. But when one makes his living as a professional, it becomes difficult, because I can’t stand misrepresentational acting. I don’t mean to give an acting lesson here but in this case, you see, I’m not."

"There is a wealth of talent in this valley and, believe me, much of it is of a professional level. And so I’m open to any kind of challenge here--except a certain run on Baldy."

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Kathy Wygle, the Rep’s artistic director, brought the play to the attention of Kane, hoping the time was right for a play about two elderly men and to find actors who could perform the roles.

"It was Jon Kane who put those two together," said Wygle. "It was his idea to get Adam West. His mind is always working. I admire his imagination. You know, what if? What if we did this?"

Wygle fell in love with "The Duck Variations," often performed with another far more popular Mamet piece "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," in 1983.

Wygle describes her reaction to the play as profound and akin to one she had when observing an elderly lady dressed in her Sunday best oblivious to the fact her clothing was threadbare, her complexion as wrinkled and worn.

"I just want to hug her," Wygle said. "These two old men in this play touch me the same way. These men are in all of us. There’s something about us all that’s so vulnerable and sad. It’s like those telephone commercials that make you cry even though you know you’re being manipulated. I don’t think this is the kind of play people have the opportunity to see or read. To me, it was a treasure."

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Raymond has been to the Wood River Valley to perform in a number of productions as part of the Sun Valley Performing Arts Festival and assisted Wygle in the direction of "The Odd Couple." He and Kane met years ago in New York City when Raymond was still performing with Mabou Mines.

"I was a huge fan of Bill’s," remembered Kane, "and through a mutual friend was introduced to him."

Kane then presented Raymond in New York City in Mabou Mines’ piece "A Prelude to Death in Venice," which garnered Obies for best play and Raymond’s performance.

"It was the greatest moment in my life. And now 15 years later we’re doing a Sam Shepard play together," Kane said, referring to another Rep production, "Seduced," which will be performed Feb. 4-7 at the nexStage Theatre.

Raymond and West seem to be having great fun with the work, the material, and with Kane and Wygle.

"I’ve been very lucky," said West. "I’ve had almost 40 years of work. In the last two weeks I worked a lot even. I just got back. But to have the pleasure of coming here to this beautiful home that we share and be able to work with someone like Bill and Jon and these people, well this is delightful for an actor. To be able to stretch a little and not do some of the stupid chestnuts that I’ve done. That’s all."

Friday’s performance is free and open to everyone. For more information, contact the center at 726-9491.

 

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