Lost innocents


By Jesse Schmitt and Roger Awylard
Directed by Roger Awylard
Midtown International Theatre Festival
WorkShop Theater Co./Jewel Box Theater
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Charles Battersby

Tackling the topics of unplanned pregnancies, suburban teen angst, and homelessness, playwrights Jesse Schmitt and Roger Awylard have created a light, little drama with their play Fortune.

In "Fortune, a young couple in their 20s find themselves in trouble due to an unexpected pregnancy. She’s a young, struggling painter, and he’s an up-and-coming suit monkey. The baby forces them to decide whether they're ready to get married and become grown-ups. Like too many young couples, they decide to get hitched and have the baby. This means that she'll have to give up her career as an artist, and he'll have to get on the fast track to corporate success, and work so hard that he'll never see the family he's supporting.

The narrative switches back and forth between various points in this marriage: to the present, where this unplanned child turns out to be a teen-aged Runaway (played by Steve Warkentin). The Runaway is befriended by a Homeless Man (none of the characters have proper names) who mentors the kid in the harsh realities of life on the streets. The Runaway (for reasons not revealed until the end of the play) believes that his home life is the stuff of tragedy, and that life on the streets would be better. This notion is eventually dispelled by the grim reality of eating garbage, and a revelation or two about the difference between dysfunctional and abusive. The subplot about Mom and Dad's marriage breaking up chugs along in the background, traveling forward in time, so that both stories end with the same scene set in the present. This narrative form is interesting, but still the story is rather predictable.

Most of the cast was a bit young for their roles. Writer/actor Jesse Schmitt was a tad baby-faced to play his role as a streetwise, grizzled, verse-speaking bum who mentors the young Runaway. Thomas Andrew Misner and Katharine Poklemba were also too young for the characters through most of the play. Misner and Poklemba were cast right as the twentysomething couple who find themselves with an unplanned baby at the beginning of the show, but the two were totally out of place in later scenes as a fortyish couple lamenting their lost youth. Little was done from a directorial perspective to make them age, aside from modest costume changes.

Besides the costumes, other design elements were minimal as well. The set was sparse, mostly made up of black theatre blocks, though some of Mom's artwork could be seen on the wall of Mom and Dad's house. Lighting design (shared with the rest of the festival) was functional, but not memorable.

With its under-an-hour running time, there were limits to the depth that this play could achieve in its examination of the issue of teen homelessness. Its message is by no means an Earth-shattering statement, but Fortune would certainly serve as a catalyst for discussion by teen audiences.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2004 Charles Battersby