When I walk into a theater before a performance of a play, there are several things on my wish list.
I hope that if the play has faults, the actors will carry it on their shoulders to a place where we all can enjoy it. I hope that if the actors aren’t up to snuff, the play is of such quality that even weak performances can’t bring it down. I hope that if neither of the above happens, then the director will find something upon which we can all hang our hats.
Unfortunately, none of those things came true in "Use No Place Soon" the play by Mary K. Ryan that opened at the Alchemist Theatre Thursday night and runs through April 26.
The play is told with four characters. Tom, his wife Elle, his mother Diane and Leo, who is either a newspaper interviewer or a psychiatrist. The story is about some terrible crime Tom committed and the impact it has on his relationships.
Let’s start with the play, which starts with a gimmick.
From the earliest moments, all of the characters refer to the horrible crime that Tom has committed. Words like "despicable" and "outrageous" and "horrible" are used to describe this crime. But we never get told what the crime actually is until midway through the second act.
We get teased, and the hope, of course, is that we are on the edge of our seats waiting to hear what he did. By that time we actually found out, however, I could barely care what the crime was. Everything from a jaywalking ticket to mass murder seemed to be on the table, but after a while, I found myself saying, "Who cares?"
There are not many hard and fast rules to writing a good play. One of the most famous, however, is that you should show what happens rather than tell.
"Use No Place Soon," which Ryan also directed, is all tell and no show. The characters don’t so much speak as they lecture. On and on, until you want to shout, "Shut up already, and let somebody else talk." There are speeches about love and about truth and about lies and about parenting and about child abuse and ... you get the point.
Nobody talks to anybody else. They all have some huge point to make and dadgummit, they are going to make it whether it stops the entire play in its tracks or not.
The problem with all of this, of course, is that nobody seems like a real person. You’ve got Leo, who asks what he thinks are probing questions but are really just an excuse to let somebody else in the cast take off on the lecture train.
Okay. So we’ve got a play with lots of holes in it. Maybe sterling and experienced actors can rescue it.
Nope. Not even close.
Lines stopped and started all over the place. Maybe it was opening night jitters, but I don’t think so.
It got to the point where I started placing bets with myself about what the rest of the cast was doing when one of them was giving a speech. What we got was the head nod, the big sigh, the rolling of the eyes, the stare off into space, the turn away from whoever was talking, the clenching of fists and any number of manufactured reactions that had little or nothing to do with what the speaker was actually talking about.
The four cast members – Mark R. Neufang, Kaitlin McCarthy, Sara Pforr and Rick Berggreen – are all probably very nice people. But actors have to bring something to their characters. They have to add to the equation, not detract from it. Not only did I not have any sense of belief in any of the characters, I didn’t care whether I believed or not.
And finally, let’s get to the directing, done by the playwright herself.
There’s an old saying that a lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client.
Most times, that can also be said about a playwright and a director. I don’t think that another director would have been able to rescue this play, but it couldn’t have hurt. Another pair of eyes will see things that a playwright has trouble seeing about his or her own work.
I really want to find something nice to say about this whole thing so here it goes.
The space at Alchemist Theatre is a lovely space with a warm and eccentric lobby. It’s a pleasure to go there. It deserves so much better than it got with "Use No Place Soon," a title that doesn’t make any more sense to me after seeing the play than it did before I saw it.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Dave Begel
Published June 30, 2015
The No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the world, Germany and the United States, will meet tonight for a berth in the final of the Women's World Cup. Both teams were favored to win the tournament before it started and the game feels like it should be the final.
Published June 29, 2015
Just one day after the nation was rocked to its foundation by the Supreme Court decision to honor love in all its forms the story of another love that blossomed as the world was changing came to our attention. It's the APT production of "Pride and Prejudice."
Published June 29, 2015
Pity is a coomplex thing but it's relatively easy int he world of sports. There are good guys and bad guys and we like some of them and dislike others. It's all a big pity party.
Published June 28, 2015
"The Island" is a play about the brutality and pain of apartheid in South Africa. But it is also more than that - a tale about the obligation to protest against unworthy conditions. It is a difficult and meaningful play to watch.
Published June 26, 2015
The Milwaukee Bucks, who didn't have much shooting in their arsenal last season, went for exactly that in both the NBA draft and a draft-night trade. Rashad Vaughn, a shooter from UNLV, and Greivis Vasquez, a veteran shooter from the Toronto Raptors, will join the Milwaukee Bucks.
Published June 25, 2015
Summerfest was nothing more than grass and mud in the early days, the level of excitement soon took on a massive personality. The Beach Boys played after a driving rainstorm and Orbison was a wonderful gentleman.
Published June 25, 2015
Following the Rolling Stones can be a problem for any band. But Florida Georgia Line put on its own high-energy show at the Marcus Amphitheater on the first official night of Summerfest.
Published June 24, 2015
The Milwaukee Bucks look to pick up a power forward in the NBA draft Thursday night. The two names most often mentioned are Bobby Portis from Arkansas and Kevon Looney from UCLA, but both Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky from Wisconsin are getting some mentions, as well.
Published June 23, 2015
Sports fans provide support for their teams, both moral and financial. I think fans deserve to be treated with respect and be given honest answers about some of the questions that face teams in trouble, like the Brewers.
Published June 23, 2015
"Every act is different," Babisch said. "But no act gets booked in a vacuum. You always have to balance one act against what's going on the rest of the festival."