In his (lengthy) program notes for The Product of Faulty Parenting, playwright/producer Eric Alter claims he "doesn’t care what reviewers think." This is a very healthy attitude that more theater professionals should cultivate. After all, reviews are only one person’s opinion. So if he truly doesn’t care, then he should stop reading right now. However, for those who are interested, read on to learn one reviewer’s opinion of Mr. Alter’s genuine, albeit raw, talent.
The Product of Faulty Parenting is a series of seven one-act plays which aim to dissect a variety of today’s social issues, including love, redemption, dating, career decisions, homophobia and social status. Alter, a New Jersey-based playwright, has some very sophisticated ideas, but he seems to have a number of unresolved issues concerning adult male/female relationships – issues which stand in the way of his ability to write with the brevity and assurance that would support the originality of his thinking. He also has a frustrating habit of pulling back from each provocative stance by taking a very provincial view of his characters and the situations in which he puts them.
Mr. Alter’s three plays about adolescents, however (Seven Minutes in Heaven, Social Learning, and Reincarnation) were tantalizing glimpses of what he could be capable of were he to write from a broader base of experience. It may not be coincidental that these were among the briefest pieces of the evening, Social Learning and Reincarnation making their breathtaking points in a barely 3 minutes each.
The evening was further hampered by flat direction (six by Mark Phelan, one by Linny Miller) and a bare-bones production that somehow managed to feel overproduced. In addition, both the playwright’s and director’s choices in casting, with a few exceptions, were disastrous. Most of the performers in the 18-member cast emoted with the breathy, sincere pomposity of those who come to the big city after a lifetime in suburban theater. The exceptions were Will Flanagan, a 14-year-old actor who inhabited every role he played with a life force that belied his years, and Jason Themm, whose deeply felt, wonderfully simple performance was made all the more extraordinary by the fact that this was his first stage experience. Both of these young men (and to a slightly lesser extent Lily Burd, Allison Crosby, Jennifer Weaver, Christopher Tessler and Pat Cobb) displayed a natural talent that would be the envy of far more experienced performers.
If Alter is still reading, it is hoped that he will continue to expand and explore his talent, take a few more risks with the crew he chooses to work with, and raise the stakes of his writing. Because the only thing sadder than a bad play is a bad play by a playwright who has the potential to do better.
(Also featuring Craig Bernard, Scott Bishop, Melissa Vaughn-Dean, Mia Diaz, Marci Fine, Susan Amy-Kelly, Frank Malvasi, Michael Moller, Campbell Morrissy, Melissa Pellechio, and Cynthia Wiese. Lighting by Craig Bernard. Sets and costumes were uncredited.)
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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita