Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review - The Talk (John Chatterton Presents, Inc.)

By Byrne Harrison

Presented as part of the Short Subjects (continued) project at Where Eagles Dare, an outgrowth of the Short Subjects in the Midtown International Theatre Festival, Gabrielle Fox tackles some weighty topics in her play The Talk.

The play centers on a couple, David (Paul Geiger) and Michelle (Pilar Witherspoon), their son, Jake (Evan Robert Smith), and David's best friend, Marty (Michael Boothroyd). David and Michelle are merely going through the motions of their marriage, and each blames the other - David no longer seems interested in Michelle, Michelle is too busy with her job. Of course, the truth is deeper than that, which Jake discovers when he catches David and Marty during a tryst at the house.

Michelle is devastated and vows to keep Jake away from David by any means necessary. She also forbids Marty from seeing her son, although he has been like a third parent to Jake, filling in for Michelle and David when they've been too busy for their son. In order to make this happen, she embarks on a scorched earth campaign against David, making vile public accusations against him.

As would be expected from an incubator series called Short Subjects, The Talk is a very short piece, however playwright Gabrielle Fox has written a surprisingly tight play. Although she ties up all the loose ends into a satisfying ending that provides a strong message about individual needs versus the needs of a family, the play seems rushed. Fox has taken on a number of challenging topics - sexuality, infidelity, revenge, and childhood trauma, to name but a few - that seem somewhat too tightly packed in her short play. While I often lament the number of plays where the playwrights seem to drag out topics that don't justify full-length treatment, Fox's play could easily be expanded and some of the topics explored in depth. In addition, a longer format would allow better development of the relationships between the characters, specifically the triangle involving David, Michelle, and Marty. Of the three, Michelle is the most fully realized character; a little fleshing out would benefit David and Marty.

Troy Miller's direction is adequate, though not up to his usual high standards. He seems to have given his actors more rein than normal, and though Witherspoon is up to the challenge, the others at times falter, not allowing certain scenes to have the full emotional impact that they should. Overall, however, the production has more strengths than weaknesses, and I'm sure we will be seeing The Talk again in the future.

It's encouraging to see the types of work that John Chatterton Presents, Inc., is bringing to stage. The Talk is exactly the type of timely and though-provoking work that should be getting produced.

The Talk
Written by Gabrielle Fox
Directed by Troy Miller
Stage Manager: Jason Xaysittiphone

Featuring: Paul Geiger (David), Pilar Witherspoon (Michelle), Michael Boothroyd (Marty), Evan Robert Smith (Jake), Rich Flight (Ray)

Where Eagles Dare Studios
347 W. 36th St., 13th Floor

Friday, November 13 - 9 PM
Saturday, November 14 - 7 PM
Sunday, November 15 - 3 PM
Friday, November 20 - 7 PM
Saturday, November 21 - 7 PM

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