Powerful drama 'Orphans' opens March 6 at CBC

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 27, 2014 

Jim Wutzke, left, plays Harold, Chris Garcia plays Treat and Cooper Wutzke plays Phillip in Columbia Basin College’s production of Orphans.

COURTESY FRANK MURRAY

Two brothers who were orphaned as children live in a rundown apartment where their survival depends on what they can steal to stay alive.

That's the storyline of the drama Orphans, which opens March 6 in the theater at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

The brothers, Treat and Phillip, are portrayed by CBC students Chris Garcia and Cooper Wutzke.

Treat, the oldest, is more brutal and violent than his younger brother, whom he has protected since childhood after their father abandoned them and their mother died.

But even though Treat is over-protective, he still harbors a deep-seeded orphan's fear of abandonment. He prevented his younger brother from ever leaving the apartment as they grew up, and only Treat would go out to steal what he could for their survival.

The isolated life left Phillip an illiterate innocent by the time he reached adulthood.

"This is a beautiful story about kids without parents who manage to survive on the street," said director Ginny Quinley. "Then they finally find some kind of love from a Chicago gangster who they kidnap. The relationships are beautiful and real."

The brothers' lives change suddenly when Treat kidnaps the mobster, hoping to haul in a handsome ransom.

The mobster Harold, played by Jim Wutzke, turns the tables by gaining the upper hand and taking on the role of teacher, healer and surrogate parent to the lost brothers.

"Although this is a drama, it has some very funny lines in it," Quinley said. "I like shows with both elements because it reflects life more realistically."

Veteran film actor John Mahoney got his start in the movie business after performing in the stage production of Orphans for the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago in the 1970s, Quinley said.

She quotes Mahoney as saying, "Orphans has affected people more than any other play I've ever done. I still get mail from it and people stopping me on the street 20 years later."

Cooper and Jim Wutzke are a father/son team who are making their first attempt at portraying lead characters together in a play.

"My father and I are having a great time and love the show," Cooper said. "But when rehearsal time comes around, we aren't father and son anymore. We are Phillip and Harold."

Jim Wutzke, a veteran Tri-City actor, said working with his son has been a treat.

"It has been a pleasure watching Cooper work the stage," Jim said. "This is his first real big part, and he's doing very well. Orphans is a well-written story that I have wanted to do for a long time."

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the original production of Orphans, which was one of the reasons Quinley decided on the play, she said.

"I am so moved by how well the cast is doing that I've decided to enter it as a participating show in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival," Quinley said. "We haven't entered any shows in this for a long time, and this one is powerful enough to enter."

Showtime is 7:30 p.m. March 6-8 with a 2 p.m. matinee March 9. The play is rated R for adult language and situations.

Tickets cost $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at Adventures Underground in Richland, J.D.'s Time Center in Kennewick and the CBC Bookstore in Pasco.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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