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 Aug. 27, 2015
With Donald Trump monopolizing the airwaves with his amazing campaign, it's important to recognize that our very own governor is also in this race. It is also important to note that there are significant differences between these two candidates.
Published Aug. 25, 2015
The 2015-16 theater season in Milwaukee is just underway and looking ahead there is promise of outstanding productions that will stimulate audiences to laugh, think and weep.It's an appropriate time to look back at the 2014-15 season that provided so much interesting theater. Milwaukee is fortunate to have so many theater companies, both old favorites and new and bold groups. We have a wealth of great theater that is abundant for a city our size.
Published Aug. 25, 2015
The injury to Jordy Nelson of the Green Bay Packers, as well as other injuries to players on other NFL teams in the last couple of weeks, is a blow to the teams as they approach the regular season.They also point to the continuing folly of having four preseason games, a relic of the past that serves no purpose other than to provide additional revenue to owners of teams in the most popular and highest revenue sport in the country.
Published Aug. 20, 2015
No less an authority than the United States Department of Justice has cracked open the door to allowing tribes, which are sovereign states, to grow marijuana on their reservations. Could this mean more revenue for Wisconsin tribes?
Published Aug. 16, 2015
Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Edward Albee has theory of evolution, if not about the existence of man, at least about the way one man lives and gets along with another. "Seascape," the third Pulitzer play Albee wrote, opened at American Players Theatre in Spring Green over the weekend and like his other great works, it looks at the evolution of relationships with an unerring eye and sensibility.
Published Aug. 15, 2015
There's this guy, see, and he lives in a hot apartment in Paris and he's got these three ladies, all of whom think he's going to marry them and they drop in and out of his place and he keeps track of all this dropping in and out by using the timetables of the airlines that the three ladies work for.
Published Aug. 14, 2015
Scott Walker is in danger of dropping off the radar screen unless someone lights a fire under him and gives him an injection of passion. He can learn a lot from the world of the theater, things that might actually make him seem like someone who cares.
Published Aug. 14, 2015
Angela Iannone, one of the finest actors ever to grace a stage in Milwaukee, has been engaged in a love affair for the past six years with a man who died when he was only 59 years old.Not only that, but the man died in June of 1893. Edwin Booth was his name, the finest actor of his time, the brother of the man who killed Abraham Lincoln and the object of desire for Iannone who has crafted a series of play about this lover.
Published Aug. 11, 2015
The PGA tournament, the final major of the golf season, gets underway this week at the beautiful Whistling Straits near Sheboygan. It's a great tournament, a great site and a wonderful chance for thousands and thousands of spectators to see the world's best golfers up close and personal. So here's a series of do's and don'ts if you are planning to go to Whistling Straits.
Published Aug. 6, 2015
Tonight is the culmination of lord knows how many weeks when 10 Republican candidates for president gather in front of a bank of lights and television cameras for the first debate. These events bear absolutely no resemblance to a real debate. They are just a simple chance for candidates to repeat scripted phrases about every issue imaginable.