Matt Orme and Jane Welch in Love Letters (2013)
By Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2014 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Photos courtesy of Bunbury Theatre.
Often one individual becomes closely associated with a particular theatre company. Typically it is the founder or perhaps the Artistic Director who has led an organization through a milestone development. Bunbury Theatre has been under the leadership of Juergen Tossman for several years now, but almost as formative a figurehead for the current Bunbury is actor/director Matt Orme. Whatever the range of plays that Bunbury has presented in recent years, there seems to have been a genuine focus on finding good roles for this man to play.
Now edging into a retirement of sorts, Orme looks back on his time at Bunbury with great satisfaction. There has always been a sense that he and Tossman have been something of a partnership, with Orme functioning as a steady first officer of sorts. From bit player to director and in several important roles, he has been an invaluable resident company of one.
He hasn’t disappointed. As he prepares to essay the Sam Shepard two hander Ages of The Moon at Bunbury with longtime Actors Theatre veteran Patrick Tovatt, I am reminded of his deeply felt turn as Dodge in Shepard’s Buried Child two seasons ago. The entire production struck me as one of the company’s finest, positioning Orme as part of an exemplary ensemble of top-flight local talent that brought the dark material to vivid and visceral life. It was a bold gamble that paid off artistically and commercially for Bunbury.
Just a little further back there was a superlative mounting of Barrymore, the one-man show made famous by Christopher Plummer that is by design a tour-de-force for anyone equipped to take it on. Scripts structured for only one person can lend themselves to flights of ego and vanity, but when Orme approached the project, he suggested that a second character, referred to in the text but never seen, be made manifest onstage and cast with Ted Lesley. “An actor needs someone to work off of, and Ted is so good…I felt it was important and it made a big difference,” explains Orme. He may have had the Roman-nose profile to match Barrymore, but the humility is all Orme’s.
Love Letters and The Gin Game are other recent offerings showcasing Orme; choices that seem as much an ongoing valentine to the actor as material designed to appeal to Bunbury’s loyal constituency of fans. “Juergen has been so generous with me, and Bunbury has given me such opportunity; I feel very grateful,” states Orme. While Ages of Reason might not be the very last bow those fans will witness, the ruminative exploration of aging friendships brought to the stage by two actors so fondly respected by Louisville audiences will undoubtedly serve as a fitting marker of this particular actor’s tender relationship with Louisville theatre.
Ages of Reason
February 7-23, 2014
Bunbury Theater at
The Henry Clay Theatre
604 South 3rd St.
Louisville, KY 40202
For tickets and more info go to BunburyTheatre.org.