Play: “Acts of Love”
Group: West End Players Guild
Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Avenue
Dates: April 8, 9, 10
Tickets: $18; contact 314-367-0025 or www.westendplayers.org
Story: Ed and Sheila have just arrived at their summer cottage to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. Ed is a wealthy physician, prone to carp and criticize at most every opportunity, while Sheila is a more laid-back and embracing sort and a well-known anthropologist in her own right. They open the windows and air out the place as they await the arrival of Ed’s grown son Tom, a cook who is bringing his latest girlfriend Annie along to participate in the festivities.
Tom and Ed have a strained relationship, brought on by Ed’s continual ostracism of Tom’s life and what Ed perceives as his lack of accomplishments, while Sheila is more nurturing of her stepson. Tom has struggled since his mother died shortly after the tragic drowning of his brother many years before. He hopes for a reconciliation of sorts, yet after he arrives with Annie it becomes apparent that Sheila and Annie have met before. Is it a coincidence that they meet again, or carefully orchestrated? What exactly is Annie doing there, and who precisely has she come to visit?
Highlights: Produced off-Broadway in 2007, this one-act play in five scenes written by Kathryn Chetkovich strives to emulate Harold Pinter in its depiction of a series of relationships that unfold like slowly blooming flowers in the course of its 75 minutes. Chetkovich has an easy way with dialogue and sets up some interesting character revelations that are clever to a point before slipping beyond credulity. West End Players Guild presents the St. Louis premiere of this cautionary tale as the finale of its 2010-11 season.
Other Info: Director Robert Ashton and his quartet of players enjoy sporadic success in detailing this modern morality fable. The primary problem is that lines often are delivered hesitantly, at least in last Sunday afternoon’s presentation, blunting the impact of the dialogue and diminishing the revelations that accompany it. Sean Ruprecht-Belt does a fine job of conveying Ed’s crankiness and also his simmering anger, but the other performers could use firmer guidance in toning down their halting approach.
Macia Noorman has some good moments as the mysterious Annie, and Renee Sevier-Monsey satisfactorily conveys Sheila’s complex emotional yearnings. As Tom, Joseph Hosea seems better in detailing the conflicts with his father, but his supposed attraction to Annie falls short of believability.
Technical support is evident in the nicely appointed living room of Ed and Sheila’s summer home, courtesy of set designer Ken Clark and props supervisor Jackie Aumer. Russell Bettlach’s costumes convey both the work station and the philosophy of the respective characters, while Anthony Anselmo and Chuck Lavazzi add complementary lighting and sound, respectively.
It’s an interesting enough story and a less tentative interpretation could offer a more intriguing look at Chetkovich’s mysterious characters. Perhaps the second week of performances will be tighter and more enriching.
Rating: A 3 on a scale of 1-to-5.