note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Sheila Barth
Although award-winning playwright Michael Melski is Canadian, Stoneham Theatre’s US premiere of his new 1-1/4-hour, two-act play, “Hockey Mom-Hockey Dad,” has been tailored to suit Stoneham, Boston and area audiences, spritzled with local references such as Stoneham Arena, Bruins greats Terry O’Reilly and Ray Bourque, for example, and several other local idiomatic expressions and dialect. Stoneham Theatre Artistic Director Weylin Symes wanted to make this simple romantic tale of two divorced single parents as authentic as possible, so he installed a synthetic ice rink on stage, got some local young hockey players to skate around, and cast talented Boston actors Gabriel Kuttner and Danielle Perry as Teddy and Donna as the unlikely new lovers. Set designer Jenna McFarland Lord has transformed the stage into the Stoneham ice hockey Arena, complete with local advertising banners and signs, and realistic sound effects.
Melski’s play is a simple tale of two people coming together while watching their 8-year-old sons practice and play peewee hockey; and despite their glaring differences, they grow together romantically. With each scene and verbal exchange between the couple, we expect something dramatic, climactic to happen, but it doesn’t. Instead, we watch two social misfits- she is a shy, withdrawn former teacher trying to adjust to her recent divorce and new single life after her eight-year marriage, while he is a blustery, blue collar school custodian who’s rough around the edges and clearly smitten with her. In cadence with Teddy and Donna’s contrasting personalities and parental ideologies are their sons’ physical and emotional makeup. Teddy’s son Troy is heavyset, somewhat aggressive, though uncoordinated. Donna’s son Matthew is small for his age and timid. Surprisingly, they all get along great together.
We learn about everyone only through the couple’s dialogue, while they’re watching kids skate during early morning practices and games. Little by little, Teddy wins Donna over, bringing her out of her shell, getting her to loosen up, and talk more about herself, and exuberantly proclaims his conquest, a’ la Rocky in the Sylvester Stallone movie series. Like a good hockey match, she wavers, withdraws, he advances, progresses towards his goal. As Donna becomes more comfortable with Teddy, they join forces, like supporting teammates. There is one surprise which I won’t reveal here, but it’s the driving force behind Donna’s reticence and self-consciousness.
Melski adds comedic lines in “Hockey Mom, Hockey Dad,” but the play relies heavily on Kuttner and Perry’s acting, which is quite good. Offstage, this duo is a couple, with a son, Alex.
One criticism is there’s no reason for this play to have two acts. It could be staged more effectively in one act. The first act is a half-hour; the second act, slightly longer. The play progresses steadily, to no overwhelming climax or conclusion.
BOX INFO: Two-act, 1-1/4 hour play, written by Michael Melski, appearing through January 31 at Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main St., Stoneham. Admission is $44,$38; with senior and student discounts available. For tickets, showtimes and more information, call 781-279-2200 or visit http://www.stonehamtheatre.org.