ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Off the Main Road
The story takes place in Missouri in the early '60's. Faye Garrit (Kyra Sedgwick) and her teen-age daughter Julia (Mary Wiseman) rent a cottage to hide from her husband Manny (Jeremy Davidson), an aimless former professional baseball player who has beaten her a number of times. While Faye futilely attempts to re-define herself, Julia explores her spiritual and emotional needs.
The Inge archives housed at Independence Community College in Kansas released Off the Main Road and other works in 2008. The play reflects acceptable playwriting standards of the mid-20th century and at times flashes of relevance — domestic violence, loss of identity and purpose, alcoholism— beyond the era in its themes and some moments of conversation.
Off the Main Road is indicative of consistent elements in Inge's plays. His major characters are often in search of themselves and someone to love and who will love in return. The setting is the Midwest of the mid-20th century and their principles, which are sometimes violated, are of a dutiful, God-fearing tenet.
The style and the delivery of some of the dialogue are strained by contemporary theatre criteria. Occasional titters resounded during several scenes when the dramatic intent called for a different reaction.
At times the dialogue's soap opera declarations were beyond the pale. This is a fault of the script's era and of director Evan Cabnet. Several of the characters were played as virtual caricatures, in particular the usually reliable Estelle Parsons as Faye's mother is blatantly controlling and manipulative, while Aaron Costa Ganis overacts macho womanizer Gino.
The strongest and most subtle performances are tendered by Wiseman's Julia and Daniel Sharman as Vic, her romantic interest. The most interesting character, and beautifully played, is Jimmy (Howard W. Overshown,) Faye's oldest friend who happens to be subtly gay when homosexuality was only alluded to on the stage. In a tender and beautifully staged scene between Faye and Jimmy we get an insight into what Inge has spent his career examining — the essence of human love and need.
Ms. Sedgwick tries valiantly to carry the play but is thwarted by the script's problematic construction. Though she succeeds in giving some depth to Faye and effectively utilizing the character's mercurial shifts, there is just so much the script allows her to do. Her projection like others in the cast, is sometimes wanting.With a beautiful set by Takeshi Kata and effective lighting by Ben Stanton, the technical elements evoke the claustrophobic nature of the characters' lives.
Inge's earlier plays are still highly regarded, but some deeper thought should have gone into the selection of this work. As a period piece, and a part of Inge's canon, it is instructive on many levels, but would be better explored in a seminar rather than on stage.