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Eskimos open to interpretation
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Eskimos open to interpretation

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Private Lives of Eskimos (or Sixteen Words for Snow)
Open Circle Theater
Through April 10


Ken Urban writes surreal plays about modern life. The Private Lives of Eskimos (or Sixteen Words for Snow) is being presented at Open Circle Theater. The basic story is that a man's sister makes a last call to his cell phone just before a terrible bombing of her commuter train, where she dies, and he loses the phone. He feels like that phone is the last connection to his sister and is desperate to get the phone back.

The surreal elements come into play when he calls the phone to try and find it and a woman answers. Aaron Allshouse plays Marvin, a man who escapes to a cold Arctic dreamland when life gets too much for him. The woman who has his phone (Retha Tinker) agrees with him that she is in that land with his phone. His connection with her even leads him to disconnect with his real-life girlfriend (Flora McGill).

Another surreal element is Marvin's connection with his job and his co-worker (Josh Hartvigson), who at one point defensively accuses Marvin of being Gay. Playwright Urban is Gay and sometimes includes aspects of the topic in his plays, but in this one, it's in the negative.

Marvin hears Eskimos sometimes. They say odd, disconnected things to him, yet this is the place he goes when his sister's death haunts him. He feels like the woman on the phone understands him and shares his pain. Perhaps it's all a sham, as the woman tells him someone is looking for her and a "detective" (played by a funny/scary Lisa Viertel) shows up to investigate his missing phone.

The surreal aspects work to display Marvin's inner turmoil and grief. He is unable to cry for his sister and the frozen emotions are displayed with Eskimos in the frozen tundra. He becomes violent, as well, which is open to interpretation, as is much of the rest of the play. Urban loves to leave things up to the audience to decide and experience. That's your opportunity in this production. For more information, go to www.octheater.com or call 206-382-4250.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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