BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
by Les Gutman
One of my most enthusiastic reviews last summer was for Hunt Holman's Spanish Girl. The Hypothetical Theatre now brings us a second dose of Holman's playwriting, which, like Spanish Girl, is set in the recent past in his native eastern Washington State. Once again, his focus -- and it's a great one for a young playwright -- is on adolescence against the backdrop of adults whose behavior goes far in explaining it.
Klaus (Brian Sacca) is a teenager who shuttles back-and-forth between his divorced parents. Weeks are spent with his mother, Val (Irene McDonnell); every other weekend is spent with his dad, Max (Mark Hattan). Both parents have new significant others: Val is married to a putative writer, Charles (Kevin Hogan), whom she supports; Max has a trashy (she works at a strip club that masquerades as a steakhouse) girlfriend, Tammy (Dannah Chaifetz), who's about to move in with him. Klaus is a thorn in the side of both relationships.
Holman catalogs the ubiquitous panoply of issues that confront (especially) the only child of divorced parents: the feeling of abandonment by the father, the compelling need to bond married with the father's clumsy efforts at doing so, the low esteem in which the two parents hold each other (Val insists on calling Max "asswipe" when referring to him) and the compounding effect of their having moved on in their lives in a way that renders the boy truly all alone. At long last, Max hits on a hot button to turn things around: he suggests that Klaus go with him to his gun club. It's the first idea that lets Klaus feel like a man instead of a boy, and besides, it's cool. (Although it causes new friction between Max and Tammy, it also gives Klaus cause to side his his father against his mother since she, quite naturally, disapproves.) Once there, the sun shines even brighter: Klaus meets spunky girl who really turns him on: Heidi (Susan O'Connor). Then something unfortunate happens, and then something even worse.
Holman shows again that he is a fine writer of dialogue and a keen observer of his chosen milieu. If his work here is not as strong as in the prior play, it's still several levels above much that we see. At least until his final scene which is disappointing.
Amy Feinberg's direction is straightforward, if not especially compelling. This is a description equally applicable to the performances (about which, more below) which are in all cases reasonably good but which in most cases seem to leave opportunities unexplored. Three settings are handled efficiently in Mark Symczak's set design (the homes of the parents occupying (appropriately enough) opposite sides of the stage, with the gun club's shooting range planted in between. (A white line, echoed on the upstage wall, emphasizes the separation of the parents and provides a neat lighting effect in Randy Glickman's otherwise spartan lighting design.) Fairly elaborate miniature houses behind the two rooms seem like overkill. Tim Cramer's sound design and music, with a few exceptions, did not strike me as especially resonant. Liam O'Brian's costumes, on the other hand, seemed quite well thought out.
Many of the performances struck me as two-dimensional. The teen-aged Klaus was something of a stretch for Brian Sacca -- I'm guessing he's approaching his mid-twenties -- and, although he is an interesting actor, didn't seem comfortable. Mark Hattan, on the other hand, was well-cast and rendered Max adequately, but left too much of the character's potential on the table. Irene McDonnell and Kevin Hogan, as well as Dannah Chaifetz, can't be faulted quite as much: their characters were drawn heavily in caricature. Only Susan O'Connor successfully transformed her character into a fully realized portrayal. On balance, the scenes involving Klaus fared better than those without him.
Holman debuted in New York at a high water mark, so it's not that surprising his sophomore exposure doesn't quite reach that level. Notwithstanding, he remains someone who well deserves our continued attention.
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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