note: entire contents copyleft 2006 by Will Stackman
Reviewed by Will Stackman
written by Emily Dendinger
directed by Krista D'Agostino
Scenic Design .... Tim Hoover
Costume Design .... Crystal Gomes
Lighting .... Dan O'Brien
Production Stage Manager .... Katie Mihalko
Zoe Weingart .... Bronte Keller
Daniel DeStefano .... James Godfrey
Susan Gross .... Claudia Stevens-Keller
Jonathan Popp .... Morton Jefferson
This was the third outing for recent BC grad Emily Dendinger's long one act "Swimming After Dark". This drama about family secrets and literary ethics has already been seen on campus as a part of a departmental mainstage production and at the Kennedy Center's American College Theatre Festival, where it received a award in 2005. The production which just closed at the Piano Factory showed a lot of promise and is certainly ready for a final phase of development. It's complex mystery involves the unexplained suicide of writer Claudia Stevens-Keller and its effect on her daughter Bronte Keller. Susan Gross handled this flamboyant character with flair while Zoe Weingart showed depth as her repressed daughter. We never see the two together in real time, since Claudia died in 1984 and the play begins in 2004, as Bronte is about to sell the family home after the death of her father, who she's been caring for.
The story is told by alternating between scenes from the past on the day of Claudia's death , and in the present, when Bronte reunites briefly with a former lover from her college years, James Godfrey played by Daniel DeStefano. Currently a college instructor, he's trying to finish his dissertation on American "one hit wonders," writers who produced only one major work, as Claudia did. He's found a manuscript of "Swimming After Dark," the only novel of Morton Jefferson, played by Jonathan Popp with a cryptic handwritten dedication from Claudia. Gradually it becomes clear that the two were lovers. The two female leads are more fully developed than the their partners, though all four characters would benefit from both detail and scope.
The alternations between present and past, with occasional overlaps, keep the plot abreast of the revelations concerning the four characters, Director Krista D'Agostino kept a tight rein on both, culminating in the final scene when Bronte listens to her mother, who was recording "Wuthering Heights" for her young daughter, as she switches to "Good Night, Moon," a childhood favorite. What the script needs as a next stage in development is more depth for these two women and their complex relationship. All the facts are there, it's the motivations which remain thin. "Swimming After Dark" is another current drama which needs an intermission and the resulting breathing space. Also the question of why Claudia only wrote on novel is noticeably passed over. After more work, a longer version would certainly be welcome on any regional stage.