Front Row Center – February 2022

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

This Random World

by Steven Dietz

Directed by M.A. Bruneau

front row

This is a recent play by Steven Dietz, a prolific playwright who might be described as the Norm Foster of America. Since 1981 he has written at least 40 plays, which mostly get produced in community or regional theaters. So here we are at our little local theater, a captive audience hoping for an interesting story and some entertainment.

Not so lucky. What the author seems to have done is take some random audition pieces for two actors and hope that the play makes some sense. Or not. Life doesn’t make sense anyway. The opening scene features “Beth Ward” and her brother “Tim” and Beth is writing her own obituary before she heads off on a dangerous trip to Nepal. After all, she might die over there. Tim doesn’t think much of this idea, but then he foolishly writes his own obituary and posts it online. This sets up the running joke that Tim can’t remove his obit, nor can he convince anyone that he is really alive. Louise Ritchie plays Beth with some vigor, while Shawn Sherwood deadpans his role as the hapless Tim.

Meanwhile their mother “Scottie”—who believes it’s her maternal duty to ignore her children—is planning a trip to Japan. She likes to travel and Japan is on her bucket list. She needs to take her companion “Bernadette” along to help with the reservations and the baggage. Barbara Pruitt is excellent as Scottie, and Roxanne Rosenblatt is a low-key Bernadette. For some reason Bernadette’s sister “Rhonda” goes to Japan instead.  By the way, Rhonda (played by Linda Goman) works as an assistant at the mortuary where Tim is an unwilling corpse. Finally, there is a crazy scene at a cheap restaurant where “Gary” is dumping his girl-friend “Claire”. This seems to be an audition scene from another play. Mark Nichols plays Gary as a typical confused and self-centered male, while Dani Suder has a lot of fun being the hysterical Claire. Later she reads Tim’s obit, and remembers him fondly from way back in college. Too bad he’s now dead. There are some other non sequitur scenes in Nepal or at the airport. It seems that Scottie (who seemed remarkably healthy) is going to die, so why waste time on the plane. Subsequently there is a touching scene (probably also from another play) at a shrine in Japan.

I found this play to be disjointed and confusing. The director Aimee Bruneau confesses in the program that she is also confused. Maybe the play is about uncertainty. The cast worked hard and came across convincingly, although there were times when the pace was too slow or the lines were not projected to the back of the auditorium. The staging was clever, with an effective backscreen telling us where we are in each scene. I should also mention that five of the actors were new to the LLT stage—I hope that we will see them again. Sally Jo Bartlett was Stage Manager and Joy Cook was her Assistant. Thanks to the director, cast and crew for all your hard work.

 

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