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Berkshire Review

The Pavilion

Cranwell Resort

In the middle of life we find ourselves alive -- disoriented but alive. . . pulled forward and backward by memory's undertow --- the Narrator.

The Porches Inn
 Christopher Patrick Mullen
Christopher Patrick Mullen, who plays narrator as well as numerous others at the 1984 class reunion.
With its small town locale and a narrator to set the scene for the memories and regrets stirred up at a twentieth high school reunion, it's easy to see why Craig Wright's lovely play, The Pavilion, has been called a modern Our Town. Like Wilder, Wright is concerned about time and his language is often poetic, but that's not to say that this is a derivative work.

Pine City, Minnesota is no copycat Grovers Corners. For one thing this is very much a present-day story. The wooden dance pavilion (nicely evoked by designer Vicki R. Davis) where the reunion takes place is slated for demolition and a symbol not only of the relentless one directional movement of time but of the constantly changing landscape of our modern world.

There's also the matter of cast size. Today's playwrights, unlike those of Wilder's era, don't have the luxury of creating roles for a town-sized lineup of actors. Plays for two or three actors are more likely to be produced than the old-time norm of a cast boasting at least half a dozen performers. In The Pavilion only the two pivotal characters are written as fully developed roles: Kari (Bridget Ann White) and Peter (Josh Stamberg) whose high school romance ended badly and left both with festering emotional scars.

It falls to this narrator (Christopher Patrick Mullen) to segue between commentary and creating carricature portraits of everyone else. The people whose identities he assumes enrich the play, often with humor. Some of the close to two dozen roles Mullen inhabits include a fellow who makes his living working a 900-number suicide hotline; a woman whose marital motto is "never forgive!"; a minister who declares that men use up their prescribed number feelings the way women use up their eggs for making babies; a police chief out to kill the pot-smoking mayor who's sleeping with his wife.

The economics of writing for a small cast has in this case become the play's greatest assets. Wright cleverly and theatrically uses the narrator to move between the universal ideas about time and the specifics of Peter's return to right the way he wronged Kari so long ago and her unwillingness to forgive and buy into his plea to grab the brass ring for a belated happy ending. Don't expect that wrong to be as original as the dramaturgy (yes, it's the old story of a boy responding badly to an unanticipated pregnancy). But do expect to see Josh Stamberg gives a very genuine performance as the now 37-year-old psychologist who refuses to believe Thomas Wolfe's famous dictum that you can't go home again. Bridget Ann White is also excellent as the unhappily but determined to remain undivorced wife of a man whose life is focused on his golf stroke.

As for the narrator, given his many facets, this is the role that makes or breaks this production. Fortunately as played by Christopher Patrick Mullen it's a win-win-win.

This second and so far most acclaimed play in an intended trilogy about Pine City (see link to the first, Molly's Delicious, below). Its nomination for a Pulitzer Prize and the ease with which it can be mounted have led to many productions. Berkshirites are fortunate to see it with these three actors and as sensitively staged by director Michael Dowling.

Links to other
Reviews of Plays by Craig Wright
The Pavilion at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia
Molly's Delicious
Recent Tragic Events in DC,
Recent Tragic Events in New York


By Craig Wright
Directed by Michael Dowling
Cast: Christopher Patrick Mullen, Josh Stamberg and Bridget Ann White.
Sets: Vicki R. Davis
Lighting Design: Lara Dubin
Sound: Kristyn Smith
Miniature Theater of Chester, Chester MA; 413-354-7771
Running Time: 2 hours, including one intermission
Wed.-Sun at 8:00 pm; Thurs. at 2:00 pm.
Tickets: Wed. & Thurs. $20.00; Fri.-Sun $24.00; Students (with ID) $10.00
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on July 29th performance
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