Gallery Players recently capped another OOBR Award-winning season with a month-long festival of new work called the "Black Box Series," an annual event that showcases new work by up-and-coming playwrights, directors, and actors. "Box 4" featured two one-acts by John Watts and Ken Javie, playwrights who show promise.
In John Watts's bittersweet The Bookstore, two misfits meet and fall into an uneasy love. Paul (Andrew Firda), a loner with literary pretensions and commitment problems, meets Julie (Elna Miller), a romantic dreamer who is devoted to old movie musicals, when she wanders into his bookstore one evening as a way to kill time before her next bus comes along. The rather predictable course of true love's not running smoothly serves as the premise for Watts's long romantic comedy-drama in which the point, that "life is too short" was hammered home repeatedly. But Watts's sincere belief in his characters and their problems gave them a sweet vulnerability, particularly as performed by the genuinely likable cast. Firda, especially, gave Paul a depth that was not inherent in the writing (where was he during Gallery's recent She Loves Me? What a Georg he would have made!), while Sue Glausen Smith lit up the stage with her warm portrayal as Julie's concerned but supportive mother.
Ken Javie's Never Missed A Day tries so hard to be a scathing exposé on the evils of a life wasted in the service of corporate America, and on many levels it succeeds. Javie makes his points with an anger that boils over with rancorous bile. He captures the frustration of the worker-bees as they are forced to kow-tow to inferior superiors to hold onto jobs they hate, and he expertly delineates the attitudes of men in the various stages of their careers - from the young Turk starting out to the weary, resentful retiree whose goodbye party sets the stage for the action of the (long) play. But in the end, Javie says nothing that hasn't been said for years around the water coolers and in the hallowed halls of big business, and he offers no real solutions to the issues he explores. (Perhaps there are none, but this is theatre, for God's sake!) For the most part, the performances (especially Joe Cooper and Michael C. Hilan), showed how talented actors can make material soar, although Sean Guerin, all bluster and bluff, showed how a bad performance can quickly tank an evening. (At the very least, Guerin should seek the services of a vocal coach - swallowing words is a severe handicap for any actor, no matter their powerful stage presence.)
The direction of both was capable; the production values were appropriately unfussy and to the point; and the entire evening was produced with an elegance that served the authors, directors, casts and Gallery Players themselves well.
(Also featuring: The Bookstore: Michael Durkin, Anita Wlody. Costumes by Ingrid Mauer. Never Missed A Day: Robert Scott, Fred Urfer. No costumer credited. Lighting design for both: Brian J. Massolini. No set designer credited for either production.)
Never Missed a Day
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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita