Opening night can go a number of ways.
Sometimes, actors are so caught up in remembering their lines and sticking to the program that the show feels forced, but you clap anyway because you want to offer encouragement and, after all, they did a decent job, even if it didn’t seem precisely as if they were in the moment.
Other times—despite running into an actor you know in the front lobby who tells you he’s nervous and can’t remember a damned thing—things go so smoothly and (seemingly) effortlessly that it appears those onstage are actually enjoying themselves, thus making it a joy to behold.
I’m happy to report scenario number two was the outcome of the opening night of Glenn Hergenhahn’s “The Wonders of the Swirling Night,” which consists of seven one-act plays featuring everything from talking dogs to heroin withdrawals—and many weird and wonderful things in between.
I contacted Hergenhahn after the full-to-capacity show at the iDiOM Theater to find out if, indeed, it was true everybody under the spotlights was having a good time. He noted that, despite producing the show much more quickly than he’s used to since he moved to New York City, I was correct in my assumption.
“It all came together in the last days,” he says of putting together the collection of plays that were culled from the vast repertoire of shorts he’s written as part of theater festivals he’s participated in in Bellingham, Seattle, and the Big Apple.
“It was fun, at some point it stopped being fun, then it was fun again,” he says. “That is usually how it works. The audience brings the show to life, and reminds us/teaches us what is funny. It was a good start to the season.”
As for what’s around the corner, Hergenhahn says although he’s still a big-city resident, he’ll be around Bellingham on a more regular basis to teach acting and writing. He also plans to shoot a feature film based on his stage play, Shiner, this winter.
That is all well and good, but there’s got to be something more that keeps bringing the iDiOM founder back to a small town on the West Coast when the lures of Broadway beckon.
“Love brings me back,” Hergenhahn says. “Also the curse of Bellingham. But mostly love.”
Joining Hergenhahn in the return-to-Bellingham love train is Brian Patterson, a former iDiOM stalwart who left town to go to film school in Chicago (and has since landed a teaching gig in Eastern Washington).
Although Patterson is only here until the play wraps in early September, it was nevertheless a delight to see him portray the head honcho of the No More Pilfered Moments Club (of which he was the only member), a sheepherding judge who’s not afraid to grab the merchandise, and a cat who may or may not be trapped forever in a hypnotist’s net.
“I have always liked working with him, because he is hilarious, and easy to work with, great on stage, and dedicated to making the show work,” Hergenhahn says. “Mostly, he is hilarious. And I was pleased we could lure him back for a show. He was a big part of the formative years at iDiOM Theater.”
But lest you think the night was all about Hergenhahn and Patterson, rest assured the well-rounded cast—including Emily Lester, Sol Olmsted, Eliott Glasser, Cass Murphy, Wes Davis, Ron Warner, Shu-ling Zou, and others—were all on top of their game.
In short, if you’re looking for a night at the theater that will make you laugh uproariously and give you the shivers once or twice, it’s safe to say “The Wonders of the Swirling Night” is for you. After all, I’m pretty sure opening night wasn’t a fluke.
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