Photo-Zoe McKenzie Photography
PLAY: A Comedy
By Jaime Mire
Directed by Benjamin Park
Reviewed by Kathi E.B. Ellis
Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Kathi E. B.Ellis. All rights reserved
Jaime Mire’s one-act play addresses how children are affected by their parents’ actions – what becomes a frame of reference for “play”. The script succeeds most in the scenes between the children, Joey and Jessica, as we see Joey acting out the “games” he’s seen his parents play and how this play impacts his friendship with Jessica. The final, chilling, scene introduces a third, unnamed boy whom Jessica invites to play the games she’s learned from Joey. The scenes with the adults are less successfully realized, falling into a didactic trap to make sure the audience gets the message.
Joey’s “play” is reenactments of the physically and verbally abusive behavior between his mother and father. Jessica’s resistance to some of the games is an uncomfortable echo of Joey’s Mom’s reactions to her husband. The script also offers us a counterpoint of a different kind of abuse in Jessica’s life, a Mother who is never present – an aunt stands in for Mom – and a father is never mentioned.
This production shines when Mitchell Martin is on stage as Joey. His physical and vocal characterization of the troubled child is both compelling and disturbing. He creates both an out-of-control exuberance when playing and a vulnerable watchfulness in the presence of his parents. What is not clear (and this may be the script) is the relative ages of Joey and Jessica; Jessica is about to turn, reluctantly, nine; Joey’s age is never given. At Friday night’s performance Mr. Mitchell’s Joey seemed much younger than Melinda Beck’s Jessica whose age, at times, stretched into the early teen years. Ms. Beck sustained the youth of her character most successfully when on stage with Joey.
The adults are played by Sabrina Spalding (Jessica’s Aunt and Joey’s Mom) and Elliott Cornett (Joey’s Dad). I could wish that the curtain speech had not instructed the audience to recognize that these two actors played multiple roles (Mr. Cornett also played the third child). I have faith in an audience’s collective intelligence, and based on costuming and vocal choices we would have figured it out without the tutorial.
In the small AltSpace of Walden Theatre, production values are necessarily slender. The company wisely used few set pieces and enough props to suggest the locations and children’s activity. The children’s paper plate and fridge artwork on the upstage wall was a charming nod to the world of the children, at times cleverly supporting information we learned about the children. The music set the mood from pre-show on and provided an effective emotional counterpoint between the scenes. No program credit identified the selections.
There is one more opportunity to see PLAY: A Comedy, Saturday, November 23 at 7:30p.m.
PLAY: A Comedy
November 15 at 7:00pm
November 16 at 4:00pm
November 22 at 10:30pm
November 23 at 7:30pm
Walden Theatre Alumni Company
Alt Space at Walden Theatre
1123 Payne Street
Part of the SLANT Culture Theater Festival