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A CurtainUp Review
Somewhere Someplace Else

by Les Gutman
Ronny: .... I can always get a hotel.
Jeanine: Do you have enough money to get a hotel?
Ronny: No.
Jeanine: How will you be able to get a hotel?
Ronny: I won't be able to get a hotel. But I will.
If you want me to.

Andrew Weems and Mara Stephens
A. Weems and M. Stephens (Photo: Amanda Alic)
The subject of Ann Marie Healy's new play is a tough one. Not in the sense that it is discomfiting for the audience, but rather that it is a difficult one for a playwright to dramatize effectively. This is not to say it presents insurmountable staging complexities. (Indeed, director Annie Dorsen and set designer David Korins combine to make it look easy.) Instead, the central dilemma for Ms. Healy is finding a way to make a compelling evening of theater out of a story about dull, uninteresting people. Her subjects are dull not only when that term is employed to mean boring, but also in the sense that most of them seem like people who were perhaps dropped on their heads as babies, or maybe subjected to too much in-breeding.

Lots of people come to New York to escape more mundane existences. Jeanine (Laura Heisler) seems to have merely substituted an unhappy, unfulfilled life in New York for the one she left behind in Minnesota. Although she lives in what press materials call the "Smallest Apartment in the World," her sister Ronny (Mara Stephens), married and older, comes to stay with her for a weekend. It soon becomes clear she isn't leaving anytime soon. Here again, it's not that she has reason to find New York more exciting than back home -- there's no evidence she's even seen the sights or experienced life outside Jeanine's postage stamp-size apartment -- it's just (as the title suggests) Somewhere Someplace Else. Shortly, Ronny meets B.G. (Andrew Weems), a neighbor with whom she begins an affair. He is, by most standards, nothing to write home about, but of course she couldn't write home anyway, since the letter would be received by Lance (Todd Cerveris), her painfully whitebread middle-American husband. He visits her in New York (at first because he has business in Newark, but later just because), but she's steadfast in her intent to remain behind. It's a decision which ought to cause him to go ballistic but, for whatever reason, doesn't.

We might spend more time trying to understand what's up with Lance, but we are too busy trying to fathom some of the other question marks this play inserts. There are the thematic ones which the play eventually gets around to hinting at, and the practical ones, like how has Ronny managed to get by with a toothbrush and a small suitcase half full of clothes. We might expect that several scenes would find her at the laundramat rather than in the bathroom writing bad poetry in her diary. Ultimately, however, we just give up on a play in which the drama is predicated on a bunch of preposterous circumstances, and in which the comedy has no stronger foundation than that we are likely to laugh at people for just being really, really stupid. Ms. Healy has written the show in a series of scenes, each of which is introduced by a voice-over announcing the non-linear scene number and in some cases an obscure title. It's not clear what her purpose is in this convention, but it does leave us wondering if there's not something in those unwritten scenes that would have added some flesh to this skeleton.

It's not that the actors are at fault here. They handle each character very well. Ms. Heisler's Jeanine displays a pent-up vicarious enthusiasm for "the big city" that masks an underlying despondency, while Ms. Stephens renders Ronny with palpable anxiety pretty much throughout. As B.G., Andrew Weems is right on target, seizing the opportunity to come off hip with an ineptitude that only someone like Ronny wouldn't notice, and Todd Cerveris executes Lance's midwestern cheerfulness (which occludes his reality) brilliantly. The show also features a boyfriend for Jeanine, Anthony (Ryan Shogren). I have doubts about the necessity of the character, but Mr. Shogren's performance serves its limited purpose well.

David Korin's set design is well-conceived, a small open cube on casters that permit stage hands to alter the perspective and add a view of the roof outside the apartment window as necessary. By setting this box in the venue's large uninterrupted space without any curtains or backdrops, he effectively conveys the impression of a bite-size cubby hole (the apartment) dropped in a vast space (the city). Lighting, costume and sound design elements are just as thoughtful and appropriate. In the end, though, one is left with the impression this story could be better told somewhere someplace else.

Note: This show is a part of Clubbed Thumb's Springworks festival, which includes two "second stage" productions as well as four readings. Details and schedules can be found at Clubbed Thumb's website, linked in the box below.

Somewhere Someplace Else
by Ann Marie Healy
Directed by Annie Dorsen
with Mara Stephens, Laura Heisler, Ryan Shogren, Andrew Weems and Todd Cerveris
Set Design: David Korins
Costume Design: Junghyun Georgia Lee
Lighting Design: Ben Stanton
Sound Patton: Fitz Patton
A production of Clubbed Thumb
Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes with no intermission
Ohio Theater, 66 Wooster Street (Spring/Broome)
Telephone: (212) 206-1515
FRI - SUN @8, additional performances 4/28, 4/30 and 5/1; $15 (students $10)
Opening April 13, 2003, closing May 3, 2003
Reviewed by Les Gutman based on 4/12/03 performance

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