Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Lady"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark


by Craig Wright
Directed by David J. Miller

Costume Design by Fabian Aguilar
Lighting Design by Jeff Adelberg
Sound Design by Walter Eduardo
Scenic Design by David J. Miller
Fight Direction by Meron Langsner
Master Electrician Jeffrey Weed
Set Crew Paul Dupnick, Caitlin Kuhlman
Animal Prop Construction by Demi Benson
Graphic Design & Program by Reinhold Mahler
Stage Manager Deirdre Benson

Kenny.....Michael Steven Costello
Dyson..................Craig Houk
Graham................Brett Marks

This week the Boston Center for The Arts is giving thoughtful theater-goers a rare opportunity to see not one but two serious plays about America's involvement in world politics, both playing across the lobby from one another in the same building. Each is set in places the average Bostonian knows next to nothing about --- J. T. Rogers' "The Overwhelming" in Kigali (Rwanda) in 1994; Craig Wright's "Lady" in Bethany (Illinois) in 2006. Both are intense, and very well-produced, excellently acted, viscerally informative plays that, oddly enough, turn on the same bottom-line: politics only becomes relevant when the life of your own teen-age son hangs in the balance.

The motor driving Craig Wright's "Lady" is the life-long male bonding of guys who go through life together in small-town middle America. The trio here have a lifetime of sleights and achievements, repressed hatreds, and genuine, unambiguous love holding them together and driving them apart. These are the "good old boys" who can insult one another but apologise for it later, who can hate one another one moment and laugh about it the next. So the deeper they delve, the more complicated things get. Just when the audience feels proud of finding what makes each one of these friends tick, the playwright deftly shifts into another, deeper gear. But that doesn't mean gut-twisting political realities can ever be ignored. It's one hell of a ride!

Each of these life-long friends keeps secrets from others --- even, sometimes, from themselves --- that they could only reveal to guys they've gone hunting with every fall, if even to them. Take Kenny for instance, fuzzy and often hysterically funny as played by Michael Steven Costello. He's head of a T-shirt printing firm that doesn't need him, and spends his time high on pot watching a great movie every day. But he's pouring his love into Lady --- his dog --- in order to ignore the fact that his last, closest family member will soon die of cancer. He is the best of the trio at avoiding truths that no one can change.

Craig Houk as Dyson trapped himself in a loveless marriage in order to bring up what everyone agrees is a gifted son of enormous potential --- with extra-marital affairs filling the vacuum. The crisis in the play comes about because his eighteen-year-old son wants to throw his life into the Marines (this is 2006, remember) "to keep America strong" --- in the words of Graham, their Representative in Congress. Dyson holds this politician friend personally responsible.

Brett Marks joins the hunt at the beginning of the second act. (There is a pause, but no intermission in this 86-minute play.) When they were young, this trio bamboozled their District by running Graham, a life-long Republican, as a Democrat. The congressman visits home six or seven times a year to touch base with his roots, to hunt birds with his buddies. Dyson managed his first campaign but refuses to go to Washington --- and he vows that unless his friend talks the boy out of enlisting, he will blow the congressman's head off and make it look like a hunting accident.

That may all be more information than an audience should know before seeing this powerful play; but Craig Wright has structured it like subtly seductive quicksand. The banter and foibles of long-standing friendships that are so comic in opening moments suck you in, but they are peppered with facts and hints that later explode like a mine-field. And even at its most forceful, these three people stand ready to dig for ever deeper truths.

As with most of Zeitgeist Director David J. Miller's work, detail is everything. His set fills the BCA's Black Box with a believable forest glade, Walter Eduardo's Sound Design ripples with distant gunshots, barking bird-dogs, and the murmur and crackle of an approaching thunderstorm. Jeff Adelberg uses both area-lighting, blackness, and approaching headlights as a painter would brushes. And of course, the trio of actors are superb.
I hope the people performing "Lady" and "The Overwhelming" can find ways of crossing the lobby separating their shows to see what's happening on the other side of the building. I hope audiences also will do the same. Both plays demand to be seen.

( a k a larry stark )

"Lady" (30 October - 21 November)
@ Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617)266-0800

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide