By Bob Hicks
The late lamented Charlie Snowden, Mr. Scatter’s boss at the old Oregon Journal (a newspaper that died when the industry was healthy), was a man who appreciated a good joke but also had unyielding standards.
At his perch on the news desk, Charlie was known to lightly mock certain passages of flowery writing as he slashed through copy with his big black pencil. Sometimes he’d sigh or giggle and choose to overlook a phrase that not so privately drove him crazy: He knew which writers had permission to roam and which did not. But that didn’t stop him from pulling out his inkpad and his favorite stamp and branding the hard copy with his own gleeful judgment. The type was in a florid, immediately post-Gutenberg, barely readable old gothic. “WRETCHED EXCESS,” it said.
Ah, but what if the excess isn’t wretched?
That’s the sort of excess that courses through Dion Boucicault‘s ramshackle 1841 comedy London Assurance, which recently enjoyed a sold-out revival at the National Theatre. That production was filmed live in London on June 28, before the show closed, and it was screened for Portland audiences twice on Saturday by Third Rail Repertory, which has an agreement with the National to show its filmed productions.
Mr. Scatter will argue that it is precisely the excesses in this calculated crowd-pleaser that make London Assurance work — and the firm command of excess on the part of the performers that steers it clear of wretchedness.