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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 2, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 44
Politics done right
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Politics done right

Odin's Horse lets all sides be heard

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

MIRROR STAGE COMPANY
Through November 11

So often these days, issues seem to come down to a polarized side-versus-side, and this is never more true than when the subject at hand is the environment. How refreshing and authentically interesting, then, to see a play about logging in which no one is demagogued, or made to be only a winner or a loser!

Odin's Horse is given a spare, quiet production, where the focus is squarely on the story and the methodical unfolding of all the sides of the issue. Arman (Daniel Christensen) is casting about for the focus of a second novel, and decides to join his new love, Callie (Hannah Mootz), as she gets a big promotion from her boss (Joe Ivy) and heads to Humboldt County, California, to manage communications for a large logging firm.

There, they both learn about the dangerous tactics that old-growth logging opponents have used, such as tree-spiking, and just how hazardous the work of felling those huge trees is even on normal days. The audience learns about how the town depends on logging for most of its income (from loggers Stan Shields and Alex Garnett). And we meet a tree sitter who allows Arman to learn about what it's like to stay for months 180 feet in the air with no company.

The tree sitter, Astra (Anna Warren), talks about the larger world's need to protect the huge trees, many of them 1,500 years old or older. Her personal story is revealed, as well, as she opens up about a crippling depression brought on by being unable to save a child's life as a pediatric oncologist.

Woven into the mix is Arman's Icelandic heritage - and specifically the Yggdrasil, the great tree that binds heaven, earth, and hell together according to Norse mythology. And so the elements come together, in a very modern telling of an eternal human dilemma.

COMPLEX CHARACTERS
Each cast member has a realistic mission and a real personal stake in the issue. Ivy's tough but smart and business-driven boss is not an unfeeling monster - he has pragmatically weighed his place on the issue. Warren's Astra is not a saint and many of her decisions are questionable, although she does get a lot of sympathy for wanting to make the world a better place.

Christensen serves as narrator for the most part and although he could energize his character a bit, his chemistry with Mootz is good. Mootz acquits herself well as the conflicted girlfriend who tries to give her man the freedom to interact with a threat to her job, while fretting about the consequences. The couple's dialogue is particularly smart and clear in Robert Koon's script.

Shields and Garnett, though their roles are minor, are key players in the unfolding drama. Their characters have strong moments of irony and irritation in how they manage their jobs.

Craig Wollam's set design is best admired before the play begins, because the lighting does not highlight the sturdy tree trunk below stage. Jay Weinland's sound design is crucial, and powerful when the sound of a gigantic tree falling reverberates throughout the theater. Suzanne M. Cohen directs the cast with purpose, putting the ideas front and center without fuss.

This is a very lovely presentation. If you enjoy a real discussion of an issue, in which every voice is heard and respected, then get yourself to this play before it's over! It's one of Seattle's best productions of 2012. For more information, go to www.mirrorstage.org, or call (206) 686-1280.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com, or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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