Monday, December 15, 2008

Review - A Memory Play (WorkShop Theater Company)

Review by Byrne Harrison
Photo by Gerry Goodstein

On Easter Sunday in 1947, Steve (Artie Ray), a cocky young G.I., married Judy (Susan Izatt) a Southern belle. What followed could best be described as a train wreck of lies, alcoholism, and the psychological damage that comes a dysfunctional family.

Many years later, Kip (Trey Albright), Judy and Steve's playwright son, attempts to undo the damage by writing a memory play about that fateful Easter, but this time, he is determined to keep his parents from marrying. Although he is the playwright and they are merely characters in his play, Judy and Steve are not going to let their past change so easily. As they put up a fight, Kip is forced to jump into the action, playing a range of supporting characters and occasionally taking over Judy and Steve's roles in an effort to keep things on track. While Kip may not end up with the commercial success that he set out to create, he does gain a great deal of insight into his parent's doomed relationship, the sacrifice that all relationships demand, and more importantly, a better sense of how his behavior relates to the lessons he learned from Judy and Steve. Acknowledging that his parents' past does not control his future, he lets go of the resentment and takes control of his life.

Bob Stewart's A Memory Play is an interesting look at relationships, the lies that abound in them, and the collateral damage they do later on. It's also a subtle send up of memory plays and the inelegant way that they are wielded by earnest playwrights who dream of writing the next The Glass Menagerie. Meaning of course Kip, not Mr. Stewart, who has written a funny and poignant piece.

The acting in A Memory Play is uneven, though this seems to be less a matter of the actors' abilities than in the production being underrehearsed. There a hesitancy in certain scenes, as though the actors aren't quite sure whose line is next. That said, much of this could be due to opening night jitters, and if the past WorkShop productions are any guide, has most likely been smoothed out.

Susan Izatt's work as Judy, the prim and proper Southern lady with a remarkably big secret in her past is particularly strong. While it could be easy to reduce the role to a Blanche DuBois knock-off, she gives Judy depth. Albright's work as Kip, the narrator and playwright, is good, though he most easily seems to inhabit the role of Rydell, Judy's flamboyant gay friend. As Rydell is mocked by Steve for being effiminate, Albright shows Rydell's dignity while also showing Kip's hurt. Though he knows his father came to terms with his homosexuality, Kip can't help feeling insulted by Steve's treatment of Rydell. Albright plays this ambivalence well. Artie Ray's character work as Steve is solid, especially in scenes where he goes from being a cocky 20-something G.I. to being the older version of himself dealing with the fallout of the relationship.

Despite some rough patches, A Memory Play is an interesting reimagining of a familiar genre. The first play in a trilogy called The Marriage Variations, it leaves the audience interested in seeing what else Bob Stewart has up his sleeve.

Written by Bob Stewart
Directed by Gary Levinson
Lighting Design: Wanda Ruggiera
Scenic and Sound Design: ArtSink
Production Stage Manager: Dale Smallwood
Coordinating Producer: Scott C. Sickles
Assistant Producers: Lynda Berge and Bob Stewart
Press Representative: Scotti Rhodes Publicity

Featuring: Trey Albright (Kip, Sgt. Cato, Rydell), Susan Izatt (Judy), Artie Ray (Steve)

Main Stage Theater
312 West 36th St.
4th Floor East

Wednesday - Saturday
December 3-20 at 8 PM

Reservations: 212-695-4173 ext. 4#