by Clark Groome
Two short plays made up what turned out to be a relatively disappointing theater week.
The Philadelphia Theatre Company has opened its 40th anniversary season with Lisa D’Amour’s Obie Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated “Detroit.” I’m mystified that it has received all those accolades.
The play explores the lives and relationships between two neighboring couples in a suburban community that the playwright describes as “Not necessarily Detroit.”
Ben (Steven Rishard) and Mary (Geneviève Perrier) are what pass for a typical middle class couple. He’s a banker who has just lost his job, and she’s a paralegal.
Sharon (K.O. DelMarcelle) and Kenny (Matteo J. Scammell) have temporarily moved into the abandoned house next door. They are both recently out of a three-month rehab program and it appears they are working hard to turn their lives around.
The two neighbors become almost constant companions and secrets are revealed that call into question some of what we are initially asked to believe.
The play’s characters, at least as portrayed in Maria Mileaf’s PTC production playing through Nov. 9, have little to recommend them. They are all basically, and I recognize that this is a minority view, shallow and unappealing. The whole affair seems contrived.
D’Amour has loaded the play with issues about relationships and honesty and survival in a world where the American Dream is more elusive than ever.
The PTC production’s cast is very energetic and capable, but the bottom line is that none of the four central characters rings true. Either the writing or the acting made them all seem more like caricatures than real people. Not until the always excellent Tom McCarthy makes his appearance with about five minutes left in the 90-minute one-act is there any sense that what has happened has any meaning.
Designers Janus Stefanowicz (costumes), Nicole Pearce (lighting) and Daniel Perelstein (sound) did excellent work. Vince Mountain’s set allowed the audience to see actors making entrances and exits behind their houses, which was another example of the play’s artifice.
For tickets call 215-985-0420 or visit www.philadelphiatheatrecompany.org.
Row after Row
Three Civil War re-enactors meet after the most recent re-do of Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. The two men, Tom (Kevin Bergen) and Cal (William Zielinski), have known each other since 6th grade and have been re-enacting for years. The third is a newcomer, Leah (Teri Lamm), who recently moved from New York to Gettysburg after a horrible incident on the subway.
The two friends encounter Leah in a local pub. There immediately is tension as playwright Jessica Dickey has her characters address issue after issue, among them sexism, loyalty, personal relationships, friendship and so on.
Along the way the 75-minute play at People’s Light and Theatre through Nov. 9 is set in that pub and in flashback on the 1863 battlefield. It tries to connect today with the Civil War and the horrors that happened in the Battle of Gettysburg.
It doesn’t work. The characters are hard to figure out, the issues tumble along but never really find any focus, and the relationship between those moments set today and those set 150 years ago is unclear, as are the relationships among the characters. The acting is sound, but David Bradley’s direction could focus the action more clearly than it does.
The play is a muddle. So is the physical production designed by Luke Hegel-Cantarella (set), Marla J. Jurglanis (costumes) and Lily Fossner (lighting). Christopher Colucci’s sound design and original music are the play’s strongest elements.
For tickets call 610-944-3500 or visit www.peopleslight.org.