By Randi Somers
Things have gone very bad for Arthur.
His wife, Esther, has run off with his friend. And, while Arthur is able to weather the crisis — thanks to the small community library he runs — his library is becoming obsolete.
And libraries are in Arthur’s blood. His father ran one before him, using the organizational decimal system that his great-grandfather Melville Dewey invented.
After the library is closes, Arthur decides life isn’t worth living any more. Throughout the first act, he contemplates methods of killing himself, seeking guidance — as any good librarian would be — from a reference book. And, despite its dark subject matter, the play has a wry, comedic tone that punctuates Arthur’s rejection of each suicide method.
Besides explaining to his imaginary audience of loyal library patrons why no suicide method really appeals to him, Arthur rails against the computers and Internet that have rendered his library passé. He reminisces about camping outings as he gives glimpses of his childhood that help the loyal listening library patrons to understand his psyche. He worries about a glitch he anticipates when he enters heaven.
In the second act, Arthur imagines Esther’s life following her short-lived relationship with her new boyfriend — before she chose to drown herself. And, in order to fully empathize with Esther, Arthur must shed his librarian garb and don her attire.
Besides being the sole performer, Tom Atkinson produces and directs “Arthur and Esther.” It is, he says, simultaneously the smallest and the largest show he’s ever done. It’s the smallest because he’s the only cast member, and the biggest because — he’s the only cast member. Onstage, he carries the weight throughout the whole performance.
Atkinson said he was called to take on this challenge. After seeing Taylor Hanes perform “Arthur and Esther” in Wasilla in 2008, Atkinson said he fell in love with the script and wanted to perform it himself. His show has played in Anchorage, with plans to take it further on the road to places like Hope, Juneau — and even as far as Washington State.
Atkinson said the play — in some ways — is about him; a childless man, familiar with loss, who craves order in his work, life and the wider world.
It is a story of one man’s unorthodox attempt to reconcile the ghosts of the past with the promise of the future.
Arthur and Esther
When: Aug. 12, 7:30 p.m., Aug. 13 & 14, 8:15 p.m.
Where: Pier One Theatre
Tickets: $14 general admission, $13 students/seniors, $12 Raven’s Club
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