A Theatre SKAM production in Rumble Productions' The Young and the Restless series.
At Performance Works until March 27
The Wedding Pool is truly original. And how often to you get to say that about a piece of theatre?
In this new script, writer Amiel Gladstone explores the concerns of four characters, three of whom are 32 years old. The content is classic young-adult stuff; the big priority is forging a romantic partnership. David, Miles, and Sylvia, who are all pals, make a kind of bet: they each put 50 bucks a month into a joint bank account on the understanding that the first one who gets married will win the accumulated loot.
Love isn't the only territory being negotiated. There's mortality: Sylvia keeps planning the perfect funeral and she's afraid of the phone because it could bring messages of death. It could also be her creditors on the line, so adult responsibility and security are topics of discussion, too.
The most interesting thing about this show, though, is its sense of rhythm. The characters in The Wedding Pool are cool, almost diffident; they're suspicious of big shows of emotion, but that very suspicion reveals an innocent desire for sincerity.
Both the content and structure of the scenes reflect this sophisticated but humble sensibility. There's plenty of wit within the speeches and dialogue. Describing intimate relations with men her age, Sylvia says: "Sex becomes like an all-you-can-eat buffet: it wasn't great, but at least the portions were large." But it's not all gags; understatement becomes its own kind of joke. Strumming a ukulele, Miles sings a song in which the only lyrics are, "I hate my job." And, more often than not, scenes end without flash, without comic buttons, in simple, unadorned moments. That's daring.
This approach creates a unique sense of subtlety and presence in the evening. Miles falls for the teller who opens the joint account and they replay their meeting a couple of times. In the first run-through, she is coolly businesslike; in the second, she is warmer to his bumbling overtures. It's the tone, not the dialogue, that changes. There's sophisticated joy to be had in watching the actors play the fine gradations of feeling, and in appreciating the playwright's exploration of how we construct and reconstruct memory.
The playing style reflects this minimalist honesty. Lucas Myers, who takes the role of Miles, delivers a performance that is delicately vulnerable and true. Lara Gilchrist matches him as the sweetly pragmatic teller. And Camille Stubel (Sylvia) brings an edge of anger and pain that's expressed in droll cynicism. Only Matthew Payne, who plays David, is a bit off the mark. David, a compulsive list maker who works in a warehouse, is the ultimate observer, but Payne seems unable to restrain his natural intensity so his attempts at minimalism come off as overly stylized and zombielike.
Gladstone, who is directing his own work, has the performers light one another with ordinary household lamps; paradoxically, he ups the honesty of his piece by emphasizing its artifice. Watching the parade of lighting fixtures gets a bit tiring after a while, though, and the cues in which the stage goes to black before another light flicks on interrupt the sense of theatrical flow and accumulation.
Speaking of accumulation, there could be more. The scenes do become increasingly layered as the hourlong play progresses--sometimes Sylvia, who is a dancer, performs her choreography as other characters engage in dialogue--but I would have enjoyed greater heft.
Still, this is a lovely piece of work. If the folks who run the larger companies in town are really interested in drawing new audiences by exploring younger, hipper sensibilities, they should take a look at The Wedding Pool.