Not Even The Good Things: A Review
There’s a cabin in the woods of the Catskill mountains awaiting its next set of renters. Six millennials are on their way to spend the weekend. They arrive two by two in staggered shifts. They bring with them the baggage of their short lived yet damaged lives. There’s Bill and Grace. He’s desperate for a vacation from his own hidden secrets. She’s a voracious nymphomaniac with a cruel streak. There’s Donald and Jackie. He’s a misogynistic lothario hiding in a relationship. She’s a sweet damaged soul in deep denial. There’s Terrence and Gina. He’s a self-proclaimed spiritual guru. She’s a recovering addict flower child trying to keep all things in balance. Then there’s the seventh visitor. A spirit. A ghost. Or perhaps just the ethereal embodiment of the shame one of these guests holds deep in their psyche.
In life, everyday conversation is for the most part mundane. Even heated discussions tend to increase the blather and magnify the lack of communication. It takes a dramatist to uplift the verbiage and punctuate the moments and emphasize the words and phrases that trigger emotional impact. Not Even The Good Things plays as if someone left a tape recorder running in a cabin in the woods then transcribed all the dialogue word for word. Things were said but there was no communication. People spoke but no one ever listened. There’s little substance so there’s nothing for the mind to take hold of. The resulting effect the audience is left with is one of being an outsider observing seven characters in search of a play.
It’s not that events don’t occur. They do. There’s humor and there’s sadness in the seventy-five-minute run time. There are attempts at great insight and resolutions of long standing hidden disputes. There are also sexual tensions that result in liaisons that just add to the overall frustrations and unresolved tensions. There also seems to be a message trying to find its way out of the mire but playwright Joseph Scott Ford needs to go back and make things clearer so that the message can find its path to the audience. Burying intent too deeply within subtext can sometimes leave the viewer wanting more and, in this case, more is much needed clarity when answers are revealed.
The entire company of actors is putting in a valiant effort. Their commitment to the text as it stands provides the entertainment factor here. They sometimes push just a bit too hard but a case can be made that they are trying to find the deeper meanings they haven’t been supplied with. Particular praise goes to Sea McHale, Collette Astle, Allie Trimm, and, in her Off-Broadway debut, Serena Parrish. Director Kelsey Claire leads this cast and this production with a steady capable hand. She has worked well with the material she was given. Perhaps she can help Not Even The Good Things find its way in its next deserved incarnation.
Edward Medina is an active member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), where he serves on both the Membership and Diversity & Inclusion Committees. He is also a voting member of The Drama Desk. Edward welcomes comments at EdwardMedinaAuthor@gmail.com.
Studio Theatre @ Theatre Row
410 W 42nd St
July 10 - July 27, 2019