It was a long climb up the stairs at the Blue Room Theatre on a day that never warmed. Only half the seats were filled at the summit. It wasn’t New Year’s Eve yet, but a trio of young women celebrated with a bottle of champagne before the lights went out and “Wintertime” began.
As the lights rose, two young lovers found their way to a cozy cabin for a holiday escape. Jonathan (Joel Montgomery) plans to propose to Ariel (Hannah Knight) to properly ring in their new year. His family’s cabin seems like the perfect atmosphere — until his unhappily wedded mother, Maria (Gail Beterbide), walks in with her plump French lover, Francois (Don Eggert).
And his Friday fornicating father, Frank (Rob Wilson), shows up with his really good male friend, Edmund (Brian Miner), that he loves like a cicada.
And the lesbian ice fishers next door.
The chaos is thrown into full gear when Francois gets a little too friendly with Ariel. This prompts Maria to insinuate a relationship between the two — proven more likely by an old flame of Francois’. Jonathan’s jealousy gets the best of him and the engagement is called off.
Perhaps a word from the writer would help. Charles Mee simply wrote what he wanted to see:
“I like plays that are not too neat, too finished, too presentable. My plays are broken, jagged, filled with sharp edges, filled with things that take sudden turns, careen into each other, smash up, veer off in sickening turns. That feels good to me. It feels like my life. It feels like the world.”
The writing of this tragicomedy provided a challenge to the versatility of the actors. One such instance was the use of profanity. There would be an occasional “F-bomb” dropped in the conversation, yet when there seemed to be a furious exchange where one would naturally slip out, nothing.
While this might seem like a letdown in the momentum of the play, the best writing took place without words. The red-light moments of rage kept the audience on their toes with eloquent door slamming and a chair tossing good time. Another wordless moment left an audience member begging through their laughs for a striptease to end.
Even though this play was described by its players as “the fruitiest thing short of ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,'” they were more than prepared. During a photo shoot before their performance, the four main characters were excited to run through their lines and their moments. There was no one person jumping out and picking out the reenactments — all four were on the same wavelength as they randomly began scenes. To them, it was like the middle of a play they had rehearsed and performed every day for the past five years, not one coming together for the first day after a four-day break.
As this is a tragicomedy, death must be confronted during the piece. The lighting created an interesting effect with a blue light. Even a set of color-blind eyes could see the depressing blue light turning the blackness of tragedy to a slightly more loving maroon (or was it burgundy?).
Mee’s Greek-inspired Bob was played beautifully by former city council candidate, DNA. He was a touch of philosophy in Ben Davis pants and a stocking cap.
After watching the cohesion of the actors, the random entrance locations and the utter insanity of the play, it will only get better leading up to the final weekend.