While not the strongest of Terrence McNally’s plays, Dedication or The Stuff of Dreams is a generally amusing and interesting piece of theatre. In the always capable hands of The Gallery Players, the current incarnation overcomes many of the limitations of the script to create an enjoyable production.
Lou and Jessie (Burke Adams and Beth E. Smith) are a supposedly married couple running a children’s theatre company in a small town in upstate New York. When the town’s dying matriarch, Annabelle Willard (Hanna Hayes), offers Lou a grand old theatre from which to run their company, it seems that his dreams are finally coming true. Of course, Mrs. Willard has a price. A terrible price. It’s up to Lou and Jessie to decide if their dreams are worth it, and if their love, both for each other and for the theatre, can survive it.
Other plot lines run throughout the play: the return of Jessie’s prodigal daughter, Ida (Jessica Kreuger), a rock star recently out of rehab, and her Ivy League boyfriend, Toby (Brian Michael Flanagan); Jessie’s affair with her technical director, Arnold (John Blaylock); and the sticky issue of Lou’s sexuality. Unfortunately, all of these really do feel like tangential plot lines, rather than fully integrated parts of the story.
While all the actors give extremely strong performances, the show belongs to Hanna Hayes. Equally at ease with the venomous quips and the almost Shakespearean soliloquy that McNally gives Mrs. Willard, Hayes proves a capable and fascinating actress. Unfortunately, the strength of her performance tends to overpower that of Adams’, leaving their scenes feeling somewhat one-sided. Adams, Smith, and Blaylock have genuine chemistry, making their scenes very effective. The final confrontation between Adams’ Lou and Blaylock’s Toby is particularly moving.
Director Heather Siobhan Curran makes good use of David Ogle’s well designed, multi-level set. Costumes, lights and sound (Amy Elizabeth Bravo, G. Benjamin Swope, and Megan Henninger, respectively) are all up to the Gallery Players’ usual high standards.
While the play itself leaves something to be desired, the same is not true of the overall production. The Gallery Players continue to present some of the most consistently high-quality Off-Off Broadway theatre in the city.
(Dedication or The Stuff of Dreams also features Dennis Michael Keefe)
Copyright 2007 Byrne Harrison
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