Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: All in the Family Drama

By Michael Block

In Tyler Andrew Jones’ The Marks You Leave, estranged siblings are reunited in New York only to have their familiar bond put to the test. The Marks You Leave is a new kind of queer family drama. Georgette left her family almost a decade ago after coming out. She now lives in the big city with her girlfriend, Maggie. When Georgette's brother Ashler suddenly arrives after an alleged family scuffle, Asher and Maggie try to patch up the past while handling a litany of new problems and discoveries. The Marks You Leave tackles race and sexuality in biting fashion. Though he drops the occasional forced plot point, Jones has a strong foundation. The characters are engaging. The story is relatable. Jones has room to build up. Whether intentionally written for himself or not, Jones plays the role of Asher, the fragile sibling battling family ties and himself. Asher is by far the most captivating of the bunch. How much of a pawn is he? Does his infatuation with Clark make him gay or is he simply going on a journey of discovery? Jones can undoubtedly expand Asher, as he is the fulcrum of this story. The play is broken into two acts with a lot of information. Jones has some fluff that can be eliminate in order to build some of the other characters and relationships. Especially Maggie. Jones encapsulates a fantastic discussion on labels in sexuality and Maggie is a prime source. Simply inserting a line or two early on about Maggie and her sexual history and preferences will allow the shock value to be earned and not be as puzzling. The other question Jones’ script poses is time. Was year important to the story? Jones drops a reference to the 2011 New York Philharmonic production of Company. It's a very specific reference and if it's not essential, perhaps he can find a less pointed reference.
Bringing this play to life, director Mia Crivello found some brilliance within. She allowed the story to speak for itself, opting for a barebones feel. Scenic designer Tanner Cosgrove taped out Georgette and Maggie's apartment to give the idea of a structure. With no actual furniture, cubes formed everything. With the focus on the text, the subtleties were highlighted. This is a play that lives in pauses yet the silences aren't quite earned when the tempo is consultant and slow. Overall, Crivello needed to amp up the pacing. Even though the timeline of the play takes place over the course of a couple days, costume designer Allison Dawe kept the actors in one single look. They all worked, though the workout attire for Maggie did seem like an accident.
This was a cast of fighters and lovers. Rebecca Teran was genuine and sweet as Maggie. Even in her bout of betrayal, you understood her, giving her a little pass. Kristina King was a spitfire living in constant turmoil. King's Georgette may have been a lost soul, but her strength came out by the end. Daniel Rowan made Clark a soft sided queer character. Even though sex was a key characteristic, there was more to Rowan's Clark.
The Marks You Leave is a great story. Tyler Andrew Jones has crafted a play worth telling. Over time and revisions, The Marks You Leave can reach the next level.