Noir Writer’s Words Illuminate The Dead of Winter

Readers Theatre Repertory is taking famed Oregon-born author Raymond Carver verbatim in a production themed “Raymond Carver: Word for Word” on January 11 and 12, directed by David Berkson.

The evening is a performance of three of Raymond Carver’s best short stories: CollectorsIntimacy and A Small, Good Thing. In classic Carver style, unremarkable characters — a fat vacuum cleaner salesman, a suburban mother, a boy about to celebrate his 8th birthday party — engage in struggles remarkably funny and heartbreaking.

RTR’s actors will perform the texts of these three stories exactly as written, including narrative. The casts are small, with the Blackfish Gallery setting ideal for the intimate, emotionally frail and volatile world of Carver’s stories.

Berkson says an earlier playwright inspired the choice. “I first got the idea for this project when I was directing The Good Doctor, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s short stories, for RTR last season. I ran across a Raymond Carver quote: ‘Chekhov’s stories are as wonderful (and necessary) now as when they first appeared. He produced masterpieces, stories that shrive us as well as delight and move us, that lay bare our emotions in ways only true art can accomplish.’ As a long time fan of Raymond Carver, it occurred to me that he could have easily been writing about himself.”

Carver, a Northwest native born in Clatskanie Oregon in 1938, inspired a critic at the Washington Post to write that his stories “overflow with the danger, excitement, mystery and possibility of life. Carver is a writer of astonishing compassion and honesty, his eye set on describing and revealing the world as he sees it. His eye is so clear, it almost breaks your heart.

Berkson has been working closely with Carver’s estate and his widow, Tess Gallagher, in the staging of “Raymond Carver: Word for Word.”

The cast includes Jean Miller, Ted Roisum, Austin Steed, James Sullivan, Todd Van Voris and Jill Westerby among others.

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