ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
According to the the press materials, Anton Dudley wrote this play about dealing with the horrendous loss of a child especially for Maxwell. She has repaid this questionable favor with a wonderful performance and Playwrights Realm, a new company, has given it a handsome production.
It's not that Dudley's concept is untenable. Sad to say, accidents that cut off young lives happen all the time. And while most of us fortunately never come face to face with the staggering grief of losing a child, it's something we can all identify with. The problem of dealing with the grief that follows losing someone to the grim reaper— whether a friend, a husband or a parent— might well be considered, per the quote above, as being " what life is really about."
Unfortunately, Dudley's exploration of grief adds nothing new— except an unlikely romance between Maxwell's mom and Campion's handsome, well-meaning but silly substitute teacher and half-baked grief counsellor. He at least has a name (Paul) whereas Maxwell is annoyingly and pretentiously addressed by him only as "Calvin's Mom."
And so what we have in Substitution, is good actors, a good production, a potentially viable small play with a big emotional pull —but a play that's constructed around an unbelievably undercooked main plot. To make matters worse, it has a subplot that aims for metaphoric depth but ends up merely being cutesey, though these additional actors are also deserve better than the parts written for them.
Since Calvin's Mom lays out her situation in a long opening monologue, I'm not giving anything away when I tell you that the tragedy that drives the play is that her teen aged son and his entire class were killed in a boat explosion. While she's unable to find comfort with other grieving parents, she does end up in the high school office of substitute teacher Paul, who it turns out had a special relationship with Calvin (no, not that kind!) and who feels that this and his course in grief counselling will help him to help Calvin's mom cope.
The at first hostile interchange leads to their going to the local bar and getting drunk. Paul is totally smitten. What follows is so improbable that one wonders if Dudley thought an even more improbably subplot might make it more believable. Thus the Calvin's Mom/Paul scenes are interspersed with the more fantastical detours to a school bus where Calvin's schoolmates Dax (Brandon Espinoza) and Jule (Shana Dowdeswell) are dressed in superhero costumes and foresee the tragedy to come through a discussion of life and love. The bus and costumes colorfully and inventively staged by set designer Tam Gleeson and costumer Theresa Squire.
In fairness to Mr. Dudley, judging from Curtainup's reviews of his two previous plays Slag Heap and Getting Home, Ms. Maxwell was understandably intrigued to have him write a play for her. Here's hoping that when he gets back on track he'll include a nice fat part for her to consider.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide
Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook