Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
By DAVID FOLWELL
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place, NYC, June 8 – July 18, 2004
Directed by ROB BUNDY
Scenic Design WILSON CHIN
Costume Design BRIAN RUSSMAN
Lighting Design PETER HOERBURGER
Sound Design FITZ PATTON
Fight Director RAY RODRIGUEZ
Production Stage Manager PAIGE VAN DEN BURG
Press Representation OPR/ORIGLIO PUBLIC RELATIONS
Lucia Brawley – Tara
Christopher Burns – Stewart
Geneva Carr – Val
Alex Kilgore – Owen
Tasha Lawrence – Jackie
Matt Pepper – Bill, Dom, Hanik, Cal
Few would probably imagine Boise, Idaho to be a drowning man’s saving grace, but in David Folwell’s dark comedy called BOISE, it seems like any port in a storm for a man in the midst of a midlife crisis. Sound just a tad too cliché, like my writing just then? Yes, it is rather, but it also hits on some very dismal parts of humanity that I did not expect to encounter, so there must be something to be said about a work that treads on familiar territory without copying it. In this case, what I found in the end was that the newness injected seemed extraneous at times and almost as disconnected as the troubled central character. I also found myself laughing in moments of unfunny conflict. I credit the writing and the acting, but overall, I find it necessary to add the comment that if the author, when connected with the right actors, can affect the desired audience response, even when it is unlikely, we, the critics, must give credit where it is due.
BOISE looks simple enough at the start. Married Stewart (Christopher Burns) feels suffocated at home, in a rut at work, and distracted by an intriguing and attractive co-worker, Tara (Lucia Brawley). His shares secrets with single sister, Jackie (Tasha Lawrence), but his level of discomfort only grows, and soon he finds himself losing Tara’s attention to his own womanizing pal, Owen (Alex Kilgore). Jackie has issues of her own, as she works her way through the New York dating pool (all played by Matt Pepper), and Val (Geneva Carr), as Stewart’s stalwart spouse begins to come unglued as her husband comes undone. Ultimately, we find that Stewart is beyond midlife crisis and entering the zone of immoral, even criminal behavior.
As we follow Stewart’s journey from boredom to breakdown, we find that BOISE is a play full of detours in the form of sub-plots, and with a lot of sexual content. Most is inexplicit, but the references are constant. At the performance I attended, I feel it is safe to say that nearly the entire audience was entertained. They laughed at the ridiculous situations Jackie found herself in on dates, like her Dom disciplining his slave by making her drink milk and eat colon friendly foods. They audibly called the increasingly pitiful Stewart nothing more flattering than "pig." They giggled at the appearance of a dildo and snickered about the impending office romance. They seemed to get this play in ways I think I did not. Or perhaps, the audience ate up the extraneous bits that added fun filler, but little plot development. Odd phenomenon, but understandable, as these bits that were beside the point were often more engrossing than the central theme of Stewart and his downward spiral.
On the plus side, the production itself is solid. Rob Bundy’s slick direction keeps the 80-minute play in pace. With scene changes that often involve Stewart simply rolling his chair from one side of the stage to another, it would be hard to move things along any faster. The cast of BOISE work well with the timing and the material. Burns’ Stewart is simmering with insidious desires that do not emerge until we are meant to see them. Brawley’s Tara is cool and confident. Carr’s Val is a combination of logic and loss. Lawrence stands out as the cocky and conflicted Jackie, turning in a good comedic performance. Alex Kilgore is underutilized as Owen. Finally, Matt Pepper, in multiple roles, is best as Stewart’s kooky and carefree co-worker. All around, a good team for a difficult piece.
Obviously, BOISE is the kind of play that evokes conflict onstage and conflicting opinions offstage. I found that it was flawed, but not without merit. The pros and cons laid out, I leave it to an informed and consenting adult audience to make a decision whether or not this play is one to attend.
- Kessa De Santis -