Monday, August 16, 2010

Some Very Nice Things at Copeland

Ken Greller's This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things is an intriguing wisp of a play. Yes, it's yet another dysfunctional-relationship drama, but it admirably transcends the limits of that currently overused genre. Brilliantly directed by Peter Davis, the production features an ensemble of actors who convincingly bring this quirky meditation on romance and power to life. Produced by the Theatrical Mining Company, the drama is a new entrant in this year's Baltimore Playwrights Festival.

Currently playing at Notre Dame College's Copeland Theater, the play focuses on two troubled romantic relationships :one straight (Nathan and Suze), one gay (Ben and Tim). In the brief space of an hour, the couples experience desire, breakup, regret, and apology. In the witty dialogue by Greller, the perplexed romantic partners bounce (sometimes literally from the walls) in sharp, quirky dialogue and absurdist speculation on issues of power. The moralizing conclusion to the jaunty play is a bit of a downer, but the play's puzzles, explosions of emotion, and bemused characters keep the drama humming. Accenting the surreal note of the evening's actions, a statue molded by Nathan (which periodically becomes alive) becomes the play's ultimate object of erotic desire.

The direction of the play by Peter Davis is as close to flawless as one comes in BPF creations. The entire cast has clearly mastered its characters. Every actor manages to convey both the pathos and the offbeat humor of his or her character. There are no flubbed lines, lighting miscues, or wooden performances to mar the production. In this classy ensemble performance, two actors stand out: Christopher Krysztofiak as the perplexed Nathan, whose ever-shifting relationship to his paramour Suze, his friend Ben, and his enigmatic statue gives the play its fluid continuity. Just as impressive is Jessica Ruth Baker, who performs the roles of mother, employer, and mysterious statue. Her cool, crisp performance as the boss in the scenes where she fires Nathan constitutes the play's dramatic highlight. Her balletic performance as the statue underscores the lyrical but surreal atmosphere of the entire drama.

In Davis's capable hands, the ensemble delivers a performance which seems as much a ballet as a play. Each gesture, movement, and glance is carefully choreographed for maximum effect. The varied lighting design by Charlie Danforth provides strong visual support to the precise direction.

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things is a play for adults, not for children. It gives the dysfunctional-relationship genre a quirky, absurdist twist that saves it from cliche. The vibrant work of the director and ensemble cast will remind you why live theater is so special, indeed sacred, after all.

1 comment:

  1. Always felt you were deep water! Congratulations Peter.

    Melody Maeyens