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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 23, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 38
Quirky border patrol agent entertains in Border Songs
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Quirky border patrol agent entertains in Border Songs

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Border Songs
Book-It Repertory
Through October 9


Pot, pot smuggling, border issues, and the economy are front and center in a stage adaptation at Seattle Center. Quixotic and differently-abled border patrol agent Brandon Vanderkool is at Book-It Repertory. Vanderkool is the creation of Jim Lynch in his second novel, Border Songs. The novel has been adapted by Bryan Willis and David Quicksall, a Book-It veteran who also directs, and preserves the magical qualities of the lead character who always seems to be in the right place at the right time to catch the bad guys.

Two border families are intertwined in this tale of Canadian border life. The Vanderkools are mother Jeanette, who soothes through recitation of arcane facts (Molly Thompson); father Norm, who is struggling and failing to keep a cattle farm afloat without alarming his son (Jim Gall); and Brandon (Patrick Allcorn), a seemingly reluctant law enforcer who would rather create temporary art installations (that nature destroys - think ice sculptures). Across the narrow border stream is Madeline (Helen Harvester), who has been Brandon's crush since early school days, and her cantankerous, anti-establishment father, Wayne (Andrew DeRycke), who has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 58. Jeanette is showing symptoms of early Alzheimer's disease, so long-term health struggles are a running theme through the play.

Brandon likes to spend time outdoors, in harmony with nature, building his art installations on the side of streams and in meadows. Neighbor Sophie (the sexy Rachel Glass) becomes intrigued with his art and his character and starts documenting it in photography and film. It's mostly this penchant for solitary art creation that inadvertently makes him great as a border patrol agent. He happens to be at the right place when smugglers try to get through an area they think people never go.

Madeline is an aimless young woman who doesn't have great ambition and likes drinking a little too much. She finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the pot-smuggling business until she feels trapped by the danger and incapable of finding a way out. The smugglers are threatened by Brandon's ability to arrest them, so Madeline is pressed to take advantage of her school connection with Brandon to find out how he is so successful. What she finds is a sweet man whose sweetness she can in no way appreciate, drawn as she is to more risky, dangerous men. She rejects his advances.

Allcorn carries the production on his shoulders, being in most of the scenes, and does yeoman efforts in his portrayal of this sympathetic but offbeat character. Harvester is similarly sympathetic as a young woman who is part her father's anti-establishment flag waver and part scared, unformed seeker. A solid ensemble backs them, including a key standout role of another patrol agent hankering after Brandon portrayed by Hannah Victoria Franklin.

An imaginative natural, yet mystical, set design by Carol Wolfe Clay establishes the border and the atmosphere. Great lighting by Ben Zamora and sounds and original musical composition by Nathan Wade complete the technical supports. Director David Quicksall helps this sprawling story move quickly along, so the slightly longer runtime seems short.

This play is suitable for more mature teens, since there are references to sex and drugs. For more information, go to www.book-it.org or call 206-216-0833.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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