Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: This One Time At Smart Camp

When people or events of the past haunt your present, you can't help but wonder what could have been. And rarely do you get to reopen the book to rewrite that chapter. In Josh Drimmer's drama the lighthouse invites the storm, sixteen years pass as a man decides to reacquaint himself with the one who, presumably, got away.
Produced by Sanguine Theatre Company and presented at the Queen’s diamond in the rough, The Chain Theatre, the lighthouse invites the storm follows Quinn as a sixteen year old and a 32 year old as he learns from his regrets after a seemingly not-so-innocent summer educational camp experience with bad girl Irene. A month of lust turns into teenage love that reopens after a long-awaited rekindled night of adulthood. The way Drimmer structures his play is through two distinct acts separated by time. Act 1 focuses on the youthful years, or the hour long set up of what would normally be exposition. By the end of the evening, it's evident that this story is about Quinn and Irene. It's their journey through time and regret. Drimmer's script relies greatly on the action from the first act to inform the second thus making Act I drag greatly. With the set up as is, cutting too much within Quinn and Irene's saga isn't quite possible. That being said, attempting to win the audience back for act II takes a great deal. With so much time taken up by smarty camp best friend Jay and bad older boyfriend Greg, inviting them into the present is nice, however their presence is lackluster and minimally important that their current status could easily be set up in a few lines leading straight into the reunion of Quinn and Irene. The meat of Act II falls on Quinn and Irene, but by taking a long time to get there, the impact and beauty falters. Additionally, Act 2 seems heavily contrived. Why would these people who merely spent a month together rekindle and reminisce? From what we saw in Act I, Irene’s impact on Quinn seemed quite minor. Just a blip in adolescence. But the characters certainly have a great memory for events sixteen years earlier. It seemed hard to find elements of either main character that were redeeming, especially by Act II. Why cheer on this romance when you know that they’re probably not meant for one another anyway.
photo courtesy of Derek Miller
It all comes down to casting. A great cast can aid in bringing a script to life. Sadly, the casting didn't quite seem to work. With the lack of cohesion in the ensemble, the quintet as a whole seemed lost. There were some beautiful and strong moments though they did come very few and far between. Overall, the acting in the first act was greatly inconsistent. With Debargo Sanyal as Jay and Alli Trussell as Nicole having the freedom to play as the comic support, the Vermont scenes left a lot to be desired when it came to Liba Vaynberg’s Irene and Curry Whitmire’s Quinn. Recalling the teenage years may have been a struggle. Vaynberg as Irene is a bit rough around the edges. The bad girl fa├žade was problematic as it gave the character little personality. Whitmire captured the hopeless romantic essence nicely but it came off a tad one note. When we jumped ahead sixteen years, Irene and Quinn found new identities that seemed to be such a big departure from everything previously established.
Director Logan Reed made the most of Drimmer's thin script. It was evident Reed was trying to find the potential within the script but many elements restricted that. One being the set by Brandon Cheney. Aesthetically, it makes complete sense to create a surrounding to eliminate the black box feel of the space. But the set looked a tad amateurish with the paper effect and seemingly untreated wood. While it allowed for some stunning lighting moments, it didn't really add much for Act 1, in fact it detracted from the imagery of summer in Vermont. Many of the furniture pieces doubled as items and aided in the derailment of environment. Lighting designer Derek Miller seemed limited with his lighting capabilities. By isolating many scenic elements to various parts of the stage, lighting the specific scene while minimizing the leak to the other worlds was difficult in the small space. Sure theatrical disbelief should come into play but the scenes upstage were the most troubling with space.
the lighthouse invites the storm is a work very much in progress. With some plot tweaking in the hotel room scene, it’s possible that the scene could stand alone as its own piece, eliminating everything before it. And that is not necessarily a good thing. When the curtain drops and the characters go back to their lives, that was the sole moment that felt real. And perhaps that was the point. Life isn’t truly a romcom.