Summer brings the annual trio of productions by Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep. Love is the common theme of this year's plays — love and its soulmate misery, it goes without saying.
In one play, two teenagers are speeding through Middle America in a stolen car, and the pictures of the country we glimpse include those of pharmaceutical industry consequences; a femur dug up in the backyard; and even a graphic slasher flick. In another, we see two young women who have arrived in new cities and, while their impressions aren't horrific, they are sometimes confusing to them.
In the third, two thirtysomethings are unexcitedly planning to be married, but with the arrival of a vivacious stranger, that future may no longer be inevitable.
Established in 2005 by artistic director Lowry Marshall, the Rep provides a summer training ground for young theater professionals and a showcase for developing playwrights, mostly Brown alum. Works developed here regularly go on to become mainstays of regional theater productions around the country.
Here are reviews of this year's productions:
HEAD GAMES Neidhardt in The Killing of Michael X.
THE KILLING OF MICHAEL X, A NEW FILM BY CELIA WALLACE, by Cory Hinkle, directed by Ryan Purcell | July 28 8 pm + July 30 4 pm
As the title suggests, this work is a chameleon, which keeps turning itself inside out as though never finally deciding what it really is, much like its title character. Celia Wallace (Phoebe Neidhardt) is treating her extended adolescence as an extended vacation — she keeps so busy seeing the sights. Actually, it's less of a vacation and more in the European tradition of a "cure," going somewhere for health reasons. The sights Celia sees are mainly in her head.
She is haunted by the death two years earlier of her brother Roger, who committed suicide after taking OxyContin, which she is concerned has been too eagerly and profitably pushed by Big Pharma. At least he may have committed suicide; his body never was found. Another possibility is that he wandered off, changing his mind and forgetting that he wrote such a note. He may have returned, though we never see him, or his sister may just be wishing he had.
In any event, Celia is displacing her anger at what happened to him by making a film about two Badlands-type characters on the run after shooting Michael X, the CEO of a major pharmaceutical corporation. We see projected a black-and-white scene of them on the run — or it may be in her imagination — as she plays the furious woman with a Southern accent and her homeless boyfriend Randy (Jonathan Gordon), whom she insists on calling Jake, aids and abets and drives.
Randy is well-named, since his main interest and recurring suggestion is for them to return to the creek where they had sex for the first and only time. Celia's parents, as presented to us, also flitter in and out of what's "really" happening and what she is only imagining. When we meet her father, Bob (Mark Cohen), he is talking about how fog has entered the house so he can't even see his feet, a problem that has pursued him to work at the office, where he tends to hide under the desk from his boss. He cautions his daughter about the "scorching hot flame" of her libido.
Celia's mother, Jackie (Zarina Shea), gets surreal when we see her try to seduce a police detective (William Austin), in hyper-coy film noir style, when he comes to their home to investigate the discovery of a human femur buried in their backyard.
You get the idea. Throw in outlandish incidents around a central focus and stir. It works. The dream world device even allows some outlandish fun at the expense of the sensation-mongering media.