Cyrano’s brings ‘The Big One’ to Homer

Play about oil spill explores people involved in massive tragedy

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

Photo by Jamie Lang - Rick Barreras plays Captain Joe Hazelwood in the play, “The Big One” to be performed this weekend in Homer.

Photo by Jamie Lang - Rick Barreras plays Captain Joe Hazelwood in the play, “The Big One” to be performed this weekend in Homer.

A lot of people misattribute the reason for why the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill happened.
“It wasn’t really simply because Captain Hazelwood was drunk or because Exxon officials were bastards,” said playwright Dick Reichman. “There is much more to it than that; there’s more mystery to it. You have to try to delve into the industry’s need to cut corners and pursue profits to find the larger understanding.”
“The Big One: A Chronicle of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill,” is a two-hour play written by Reichman that travels to Homer this weekend for a performance that promises good history and good theatre. The Cyrano’s Theatre troupe of 10 actors with all their props arrive in Homer to perform the play, hosted by Pier One Theatre’s Lance Petersen. So far, the show has played to full houses at Cyrano’s in Anchorage since opening Sept. 11.
Sandy Harper, director at Cyrano’s, said audiences linger for discussions following the play.
While the idea of producing a play on the spill didn’t sound like a good theatre bet at first, Reichman said he wanted to write it anyway as an exploration into the complexity of corporate versus human values.
“The play is the opener for a conversation they (audiences) have wanted to have, and this presented on opportunity for them to do it,” Reichman said. “It explores the question of whether a for-profit operation can keep us safe if it is always cutting costs and concerned about profits.”
The play is commemorative on two levels: Cyrano’s Theatre is focusing on the 50th anniversary of statehood in a series of plays produced this season, and it was written as part of the 20th anniversary of the spill. Playwright Reichman had moved to Valdez in 1987 and was working as a bartender at the time of the spill. He worked on a clean-up crew following the spill. Then, he moved on to public radio shortly after that, “and spent the next 10 years talking about it.”
The play begins on the night of the spill, set on the giant oil tanker run aground on Bligh Reef. Dialogue and acted scenes are regularly accompanied by short narratives explaining court findings, science or curiosities, like the fact that, unlike other ships, tankers tend to be referred to as “he.”
“Despite the fact that we know how this ends,” wrote reviewer Mike Dunham, “from start to finish, the theatricality is tautly dramatic, even melodramatic; on the other hand, any accurate depiction of the spill must reflect the extreme emotions and frantic horror that spread as people realized the scope of the problem.”
Characters depicted in the play include Rick Barreras as Captain Joe Hazelwood, Steven Hunt as Exxon shipping head Frank Iarossi, Nava Sarracino as activist fisherperson Riki Ott and Erika Johnson as Dottie – a party girl who takes on the unhealthy job of cleaning beaches because she needs the money.
Reichman explores the psyches of these individuals and, to a lesser extent, the secondary characters, and reveals them not as evil, but as limited, Dunham wrote.
“Mistakes sneak up on them, they see the future and are helpless to stop it, they try to direct actions without having full knowledge of ramifications or options, they walk in the dark the way most of us do most of the time. The audience does not forgive, but may discover a little sympathy.”
Reichman said he is looking forward to Homer’s reception of his play. A discussion likely will follow as an opportunity for patrons to impart some of their own perceptions and experiences.

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Posted by on Sep 30th, 2009 and filed under Theater. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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