Corporate hotshot Reuben (Peter Picard) rides high after securing a deal with Koreans for his Buddha cell phone line. Playing squash, driving wild, and showing up his coworker, Reuben exudes the persona of a fully satisfied man at the top of his game. But then Reuben encounters Paul (Peter Bisgaier), a friend from the past who, unbeknownst to Reuben, is most probably long since dead. A corporate climber himself, Paul explains that he has reconsidered the meaning of his life and has decided to pursue filmmaking in Vancouver. His current project is about a man who has it all and loses it all only to discover his true self. Thus begins the undoing of Reuben’s secure world.
Intrigued by his encounter with Paul, Reuben slows down his high speed life to examine its raison-d’etre, only to discover that he is becoming the man in Paul’s film. Coming home, he learns that his children are gone and that his wife, Donna (Dawn Sobczak), has discovered love letters that expose his negative feelings about her. Their marriage ends. Then he learns that his coworkers have kicked him out of his company after discovering his probable misappropriation of company funds. Finally Reuben reconnects with his brother Phil (Larry Giantonio), only to learn about their brother Jimmy’s untimely death. Trying to find some correct course through this chaos, Reuben reconnects with his lost love, Sarah (Christine Verleny), the wife of his dead friend Paul. Yet, even this miraculous turnaround is sabotaged as Reuben repeats his cycle of behavior by pursuing Phil’s girlfriend, Liz (Jenn Marie Jones), jeopardizing relationships with the few remaining people who care about him.
With a convoluted plot, a wide range of characters, and a bold attempt to extract meaning about life, Boomerang Theatre’s production of Jason Sherman’s Patience offered an entertaining if lumpy and overly long adventure that picked apart the yuppie obsession of thriving on corporate power and accumulated wealth. Paralleling Reuben’s descent into Paul’s film script, the play itself became like a movie, with a plethora of short scenes, multiple locales, and a large cast of characters. Reuben’s clashing realities dramatized his mind-bending search for meaning and acuity. Were characters really present or even alive? Was Reuben living out the scene being played, or was he exposing the dilemmas inside his head? Which alternative reality was Reuben embracing? Reuben became like a character suddenly enveloped in a Kurt Vonnegut novel, one who became unstuck in time.
While experimenting with time, space, and perception can be enjoyable, Sherman’s Mamet-esque, beat-driven text came off as a glorified extension of sophomoric writing adventures. For all the pyrotechnics, the production lacked dramatic power that would accompany a play that was firmly grounded in emotional reality. A salient example of this problem was a fundamental flaw of the protagonist: Reuben remained largely passive throughout the play. Situations happened to him, and alternative universes presented themselves, and Reuben was encouraged to visualize life differently. But Reuben did little that utilized any newfound knowledge; he only acted to continue his cycle of ruinous behavior even when provided with new opportunities. Also problematic was that nothing became of his job situation, which was ironic considering how important career was to him.
With a cast that performed multiple characters, performances were entertaining and gave the text depth; although some characterizations, such as Peter Bisgaier’s schmoozy Ishmael, came off as devicey. Picard’s portrayal of Reuben was effective in communicating the transformation of his initially garrulous and wildly pompous nature to a reticent man who is gawky and displays an indelibly awkward smirk. Amy Henault’s direction displayed a remarkable handing of the play’s cinematic complexities. The darkly colored, surprisingly versatile set design (Harlan Penn) was successful in suggesting the amazing number of settings. Costume design (Cheryl McCarron) was also effective in capturing the multitude of characters and their various incarnations.
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Copyright 2004 Adam Cooper