Winter of Our Discontent

This holiday season Dennis discovers that one head-scratcher leads to another.

Because Utterback is still learning his craft, he tends to play into the obvious with speeches like "I just want to talk" and "We have to deal with this." Then there are the truisms like "Sex is the perfect religion" and "Everyone in your life, you either want to fuck them or kill them." We're often told that "the world's falling apart." (Didn't we hear that same Cassandra-like warning last month in the 36-year-old And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little?) To let us know this story is au courant, we get the now-obligatory reference to 9/11: "Remember how helpful and kind everyone was to each other? Where did that go?" What these folks need is a good kick in the pants from Cher, who in Moonstruck shouts down all the naysayers with three simple words: "GET OVER IT!" But such advice would not suffice here, because these characters aren't real. They're bolts, screws and washers in a larger construction that, depending on your mood, is either the play's raison d'etre or its conceit.

The production, which was directed by Deanna Jent, moves at a brisk pace, especially considering how little occurs till the end. The performances strive for sincerity — which is the route to take, seeing as how the word "hope" is more liberally sprinkled through this dialogue than salt on an ice slick. Adam Flores does especially admirable work as the motor-mouth thug. But I never for one moment felt that any of these actors was aware (dialogue to the contrary) that a tumultuous blizzard was occurring. Nor did I hear that blizzard in the sound design or sense it in the lighting.

Tyler Vickers, Chris Hickey, Sara Renschen, John Contini and Ruth Heyman channel the holiday spirit in Greetings!
John Lamb
Tyler Vickers, Chris Hickey, Sara Renschen, John Contini and Ruth Heyman channel the holiday spirit in Greetings!

Perplexing things happen here. Why, after the first thug repeatedly insists that they must stay away from the window, does he then wander over to the window? Is that a story point or slack blocking? And why does the bound and gagged mysterious man remain onstage through all three stories? Is he there for a reason, or is it just too hard to get him offstage? Despite my confusions and reservations, it may well be that Utterback is a compass point to the future. I saw young viewers sitting on the edges of their seats just as they do at a Matrix film. This still-emerging writer may indeed know his audience — which is a much-needed audience if our moribund theater is to be reborn, which is really what second is all about. 

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