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 arenâ€™t up to snuff, the play is of such quality that even weak performances canâ€™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 theÂ 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.
Letâ€™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.Â 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 donâ€™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. Youâ€™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 weâ€™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 donâ€™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 â€“ Mark R. Neufang, Kaitlin McCarthy, Sara Pforr and Rick Berggreen â€“ 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 didnâ€™t care whether I believed or not.
And finally, letâ€™s get to the directing, done by the playwright herself.
Thereâ€™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 donâ€™t think that another director would have been able to rescue this play, but it couldnâ€™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. Itâ€™s a pleasure to go there.Â It deserves so much better than it got with "Use No Place Soon," a title that doesnâ€™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 28, 2016
It's easy for the normal person to wonder what mountains there are left to climb for James DeVita, who may well be the finest actor ever to grace the stages in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. A mystery, "A Winsome Murder," is his first novel for adult readers.
Published June 27, 2016
"The Skin of Our Teeth" is about as unusual as it gets, and the production at Off The Wall has just about everything that I don't like in a theatrical production. The curious thing is that I loved all of it and found myself riveted at the end.
Published June 24, 2016
"Thank You, Next," with music by Tim Rebers and lyrics by Alicia Berneche, opens as Milwaukee Opera Theatre and artistic director Jill Anna Ponasik continue to redefine what opera means, staging provocative and very relatable productions.
Published June 23, 2016
It may not be possible to be any more revolted by the Republican Party than I am right now. This week Senate Republicans, including our Sen. Ron Johnson, turned down a couple of serious attempts to enact minor laws designed to help control gun violence.
Published June 21, 2016
The Milwaukee Ballet is celebrating this summer after seeing a 15 percent boost in attendance and record revenue of $2.3 million, proving that high-quality work will capture attention - and, perhaps most importantly, dollars - in Milwaukee.
Published June 20, 2016
Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" receives a spectacular, blistering treatment at American Players Theater in Spring Green. There are many who claim this is the greatest of all American plays and, after seeing this production, it'd be hard to argue.
Published June 17, 2016
His name is "Tank," and he drives a big semi - one of 30 that will be in Milwaukee for Kenny Chesney's show at Miller Park Saturday night. He took my Uber ride and provided a little look into what it takes to keep a show like this one the road.
Published June 14, 2016
This may come across as a little heartless and dismissive but it's time to put a stop to the kind of hopeless junk that rose up after the horror of the massacre in Orlando. The only way to win the battle for gun control is with sophisticated politics.
Published June 14, 2016
Summer in Wisconsin offers dozens of quick trips that are filled with experiences new and memorable, and one of the best possible trips revolves around the lauded American Players Theater up in Spring Green.
Published June 13, 2016
A summerly discontent is what I was left with after seeing "The African Company Presents Richard III," the Carlyle Brown play about the first black theater company formed six years before New York abolished slavery.