Good things come to those who wait, or so the saying goes. Walking out of a performance of Scottish dramatist and poet Liz Lochhead’s play Good Things at Stage West, I realized I was still waiting. I have tremendous respect for the wide-ranging body of creative work created by Stage West artists. Earlier this year they mounted an admirable production of Thornton Wilder’s demanding, complex, experimental, three-act opus The Skin of Our Teeth. An unwieldy, at best, play. Tough and long for a modern audience to follow, it’s even harder for modern actors, barely versed in enacting the ‘well-made play’ tradition, to perform with believable characterization given its abrupt leaps from stylized comedy to political theatre within a surreal over-arching apocalyptic world view…. Stage West really pulled it off and provided as much of a satisfying audience experience as any company that doesn’t have Julie Taymor’s production budget and technical execution team could hope to do.
So why present Good Things by Liz Lochhead? It’s Scottish, with at least four dialects, maybe more. I lost count. I don’t know them. I watched four qualified actors playing multiple roles wander adrift in a sea of clumsy voicing, occasionally falling out of whatever dialect they were attempting completely. So distracting. With the plethora of available well-penned American comedies, why does any company choose to stray across the pond and face its actors with the prospect of trying to create strong characters while speaking in foreign accents, dialects, idioms they aren’t familiar with? And then expect the audience to follow along cheerily and comprehend it, too? The 20-somethings seated near me fidgeted and checked text messages with increasing frequency as the play proceeded, as the dystopian challenge of making ha-ha out of another culture strained their patience. Mine, too. Will they come back, after a dose of this?
Then there is the play, itself. Act I is a long expository set-up dealing with a middle-aged aged woman trying to come out of her shell and start dating again: pratfalls, lost shoes, mixed up identities, ex-husbands, summer/winter romance, repressed desire, a full bag of tricks, like many American plays. Then in Act II we learn a stalker has pursued the woman relentlessly. What has been light and funny suddenly goes dark, very dark, when it’s revealed the stalker either commits suicide or gets accidentally run over by a bus. Just ask any woman who has dealt with a stalker. It’s NOT funny. This play becomes Not Funny with muddy Scottish accents.
Love ya, Stage West! I’m patient and devoted and glad to wait for good things to come. Jim Covault directed Good Things with creative input from Jerry Russell. The cast included Stephanie Dunnam, Jim Covault, Amber Guest and John S. Davies (with closest to comprehensible accent). Jim Covault designed the set and co-designed costumes with Peggy Kruger O’Brien. Lights by Michael O’Brien, props and décor (voluminous and detailed) by Lynn Lovett.
Good Things by Liz Lochhead ran at Stage West Oct. 29 – Nov. 29.
Their holiday offering A Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol opens December 10, features Bradley Campbell, Lana K. Hoover and Jim Johnson and is directed by Jerry Russell and Aaron Albin.
For tickets call: 817-784-9378, or visit http://www.stagewest.org