Story: Lynn wants to be a commercial fisherwoman. She has no real training for that, but it sounds interesting to her. Actually, she just wants to escape her humdrum life in a hamlet in rural Oregon. She yearns to get away from her suffocating mother and mindless father. She needs to leave behind her insensitive husband Ray. She even decides to get beyond the grasp of her brother Kelly, who has come out of the closet to everyone except his parents, causing his lover Gary to jump out of Kelly’s bedroom window following late-night rendezvous.
Checking out isn’t entirely new to Lynn. She tried it once before with unsuccessful results. This time, though, she’s already purchased a Greyhound bus ticket and is bound and determined to say ‘goodbye’ to her surroundings, animate and geographic, in one short hour. Will she go through with it this time or meekly return to her roots, tangled as they may be?
Highlights: HotCity Theatre is presenting the world premiere of this one-act, 75-minute, self-described comedy by lauded playwright EM Lewis. Her script was the work chosen from HotCity’s sixth annual GreenHouse New Play Festival in 2011, after another of her efforts, Song of Extinction, was a finalist in the GreenHouse Festival three years earlier before winning the 2009 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award from the American Theater Critics Association.
Lewis is expert at writing about boredom, as this dreary work clearly underscores. Nothing much happens, so it’s fortunate that an audience need only endure an hour and 15 minutes to learn that. There are instances throughout where it appears that, yes, something is about to animate this glacial experience, but they are never ultimately realized.
There are attempts at angst by veteran director Bill Whitaker’s capable cast. Actually, Eric White brings some much welcome vitality to the plodding plot as Lynn’s callous husband Ray. When he arrives on the scene, pounding away at the kitchen door in scenic designer Sean Savoie’s crisp and tidy set, he explodes through the doorway like the Tasmanian Devil while the other characters stand silently by in observation.
There’s quite a bit of characters looking lost and uncertain when they’re not actually speaking. Perhaps that’s the way the playwright wants it, or maybe Whitaker and his cast just don’t know what to do much of the time with the material they’re given. At least White enlivens the show when he’s on stage.
Savoie’s pristine set is comprised of the Hallaby household’s antiseptic kitchen and bathroom. Thanks to prop master deluxe Meg Brinkley, Peggy Billo whips up plenty o’ eggs and toast for her clan, so at least they’ve got that going for them, which is nice. Zoe Sullivan adds loud, brash sounds outside with her clever design, Jane Sullivan dresses everyone in various shades of invisibility save Gary’s sporty togs and Michael Sullivan lights everything to match the mood.
Billo conveys mom Margie’s iron-clad Catholic like a true believer, so much so that she can still extract Hail Mary’s from her adult children for language violations. Joe Hanrahan does a good job showing how mentally distant dad Hudson can be, while Rusty Gunther as Gary gets to test his mettle as a devil’s advocate of sorts.
Most of the conflict, when it percolates beyond tepid temperatures, rests in the relationship between the lead character, Lynn, and her brother Kelly. Nicole Angeli assuredly depicts Lynn’s psychological limbo, silently screaming her unhappiness at any time for any reason, while Charlie Barron attempts to wrap his measured skills around Kelly’s own dysfunctional personality.
It isn’t that people such as these characters etched by EM Lewis don’t exist. It’s just that, as presented here, they aren’t remotely close to interesting. As such, some in the audience may wonder if Lewis should have taken her title from The Beatles’ Fixing a Hole rather than The Rolling Stones’ clever ditty.
Play: Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Group: HotCity Theatre
Venue: Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand
Dates: September 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22
Tickets: $15-$25; contact 289-4061 or www.hotcitytheatre.org
Rating: A 3 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Todd Studios Photography