Image provided by: University of Oregon Libraries; Eugene, OR
About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Sept. 28, 1984)
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The artist's d ile m m a
by Jay Brown
When Nyla McCarthy walked into Just
O ut’s office, I had Brand X Daily spread out
on my desk.
“ Did you read what [ Brand X Daily’s re
viewer] wrote?" she exclaimed.
I hand’t read it yet, but I did as Nyla sat on a
stool in front of me. He wasn’t kind. And, even
though he and I saw Plenty on the same
night, I really wondered if we had seen the
I have to thank him though; he provided
the perfect opening to our interview.
“ I’ve wanted to do Plenty for three years. I
was working a lot with the Production Com
pany then and Peter Fomara was going to
direct me in it But we couldn’t get the rights,"
When she heard that ART was going to
produce Plenty this year, Nyla knew that she
had another chance to play Susan. She knew
she was the only one to do the part
“ I had to audition for it I knew that I under
stood Susan; that I had an understanding of
what she was all about better than anyone.
Why she was the way she was. And I did
research on diplomatic wives and under
stood her fear of being perfect."
Nyla McCarthy has been acting profesion-
ally since the mid-seventies. She began her
career with the Oregon Repertory Theatre in
Eugene and toured with that company for a
year during the U.S. bicentennial celebration,
for which the company had been awarded a
grant by the U.S. Bicentennial Commission.
More touring lay in store for her after she
landed a job with the Antique Festival Theatre.
"The oldest professional touring theatre in
the United States," Nyla said. “ It’s a sort of
collective, based in Idaho. We were together
all the time for 18 months. It was a good
experience. And I made lots of money to be
When the Antique Festival Theatre job en
ded, Nyla took a vacation in Europe. Upon
her return in 1978, she settled in Portland and
for the next three years was associated with
the Production Company.
“ Some people think that theatre isn’t really
a noble thing to be doing, but it gives people a
vicarious reality. There are many important
photo by Rick Adams
things that I want people to hear. I believe in
light; I believe that bureaucracy, greed and
power are the forces of dark."
When the Production Company disband
ed, Nyla took off for a year in San Francisco
but came back to Portland "because it was
too expensive.” Then she decided to have a
"I want to be a mother for awhile. I wanted
to create a positive being out of my own body.
Now I have a child to support and I want to do
it with theatre. I just want to pay the rent and
eat — is that too much to ask? So I work full
time at another job; I’m a housing coordinator
with Mental Health."
During the past year Nyla appeared in two
plays directed by Melida Pittman, Bits and
Pieces and Pittman’s own Atlantis. "Atlantis
was a wonderful idea. But people were cruel
about it; they gave no credit for trying. Melinda
was really devastated and will take a long time
to come back.”
Then she “got hooked again" on Plenty.
There is a kinesthetic energy flow that hap
pens in theatre — a chain that happens with
the audience. When theatre magic works it's
like an orgasm. And there is a lot of good
theatre in Portland."
Nyla said that although some people think
she's “real serious, I want to do comedy. I
don’t feel I am a type’ — even though I do
play mad women or wounded women well. I
even played a man in a couple of shows. I can
look really androgynous if I choose to.”
"I love people — all people. Particularly I
believe that women are really stronger than
history has let us be. I am a humanist I live
alone. I’m a single parent An ’80s super
Look for Nyla McCarthy, super actress as
well as superwoman, in a motion picture cur
rently in the works in Portland. The film, di
rected by Gus Van Sant, is based on Walt
Curtis’ Mala Hoche.
In the meantime, Plenty continues at the
YWCA through October 13. And early next
year Nyla will be appearing in another ART
production, Hill House, an adaptation of
Shirley Jackson’s supernatural thriller The
Haunting of Hill House.
Susan Traherne, at 17, was a member of
the French Resistance during World War II.
For the next eighteen years she attempts to
preserve the innocence intrinsic to her war
experience as the world around her slides
into hypocrisy and duplicity. In a world of
plenty, Susan Traherne’s survival requires
nothing but the innocence of pure feeling. "I
didn’t think,” she says, “ I only felt"
As Susan learns that innocence is a de
spised quantity in the world she inhabits, she
becomes more and more alienated until she
appears to lose all contact with that world.
She is, of course, perceived as “ mad” by the
defenders of the prevailing order. She finds
that preserving innocence is an extremely
difficulttask; surviving the Nazis in World War
II was one thing, but survival in the postwar
world is another game altogether.
Plenty is a very simple story — 18 years in a
woman’s life. And yet, Plenty, like the bulk of
British popular fiction is also social commen
tary. I hesitate to say Plenty is an allegory, but
Susan Traherne does seem to personify Bri
tain at her “ finest hour" and in the postwar
era as Britain dismantled her empire.
As Susan Traherne, Nyla McCarthy displays
an awesome ability to shift mood, sensuous,
innocent, mad. Her luminous eyes express
volumes as they shift and dart. McCarthy is
wonderful to watch.
Marilyn Stacey plays Alice Susan’s some
times lover, longtime friend. Alice is less
complex than Susan; to Alice, pure feeling
equals lust But lust comes to her after a
Stacey plays Alice as the perfect foil to
Susan’s mood changes; she’s there steady as
Plenty, directed by Rebecca Adams, is a
cornucopia of fine acting talent. Arthur
Harold is wonderful as Sir Leonard Darwin, a
diplom at’s diplomat; Joseph R. Cronin as
Brock, Susan’s husband and consular offi
cial, perfectly embodies the cynical
In smaller roles, but no less outstanding,
are David Beetham-Gomes, Tim Streeter,
Michele M. Fulves, Jeffry Brownson, Lee
Forest and Jordana Sardo.
And, as Mme. Wong, Linda Schneider is a
See Plenty and you will see plenty; it’s a
theatre experience not to be missed.
“ If you can keep your head
When all about you
Are losing theirs
And blaming it on you . . . "
These lines from Rudyard Kipling’s “ If,”
may explain the quandary faced by the pro
tagonist of David Hare's Plenty.
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Just Out. September 28-October 26