There’s a reason why saying a picture’s worth 1,000 words is such a cliché. The sentiment is one we’ve likely all experienced, even on a personal level—catching sight of a framed scene from memory or a familiar face beaming into a camera lens, and feeling the nostalgic pull of a different place and time. The essence of that experience is beautifully captured in Kodachrome. The play intermixes moments of gut-wrenching sadness with lighthearted humor, all while forcing the audience to pause and confront each emotion with the click of a shutter.
Weaving drama with photography, Kodachrome focuses on Suzanne (Lena Kaminsky), also known as the Photographer, who starts things off by breaking the fourth wall, saying to the audience: “I have loved.” She then guides theatergoers through the town of Colchester and its interconnected stories of love and loss.
Along the way, Suzanne points and shoots, capturing moments that are instantly projected onto the stage’s backdrop for the audience to see. With each shot, she creates a poignant moment. The audience instantly understands the photograph on a deeper level, because they get to see it taken: They feel the pain behind a close-up shot of wringing hands, the loving intention in an image of a colorful floral arrangement. Like any good tour guide, Suzanne explains things throughout (“I just help people look at things”) and asks rhetorical questions. (“Is love something we invented so we could feel pain more intensely?”)
Directed by Rose Riordan and written by Adam Szymkowicz, Kodachrome was among the scripts at 2015’s JAW: A Playwrights Festival, which is put on yearly by Portland Center Stage and brings a handful of playwrights from across the country to Portland for a two-week workshop.
With nearly all of the cast playing dual roles, a true highlight of the show is Ryan Tresser’s performance. As two characters, the Gravedigger and the Young Man, Tresser, who previously appeared in PCS’ One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, expressively embodies both, forcing the audience to empathize with the wide array of complex emotions each inhabits.