June 4, 2014 – Alley
Elizabeth Bunch as Margaret Was Beautiful To Watch
June 4, 2014– I worked at the Alley, in various capacities, when I was younger, but that was so long ago that the halls and stage seemed strangely unfamiliar. I got to see the venerable actor Charles Krohn in the audience. It was nice to shake his friendly hand and to remember being on stage with him. I had also acted in a show or two with the director, James Black. I was anxious to re-establish in my mind the Alley as THE place for acting and great theater in Houston. Good People has some great laughs. The actors’ timing on the jokes is darn good and one can’t help but laugh. The punch lines are often well written. I wasn’t transported to the Southie parts of Boston, though I tried to be. The set pieces and props remained just that, for the most part, maybe because of the relatively unfocused general illumination of the lighting. The sound was noticeable. Elizabeth Bunch as Margaret was beautiful to watch , but it was like watching The Animal Channel to see if the mother antelope was going to make it out alive. Jennifer Harmon and Melissa Pritchett as Dottie and Jean took the stage and inhabited their characters nicely. Moments with the three women were almost intimate when on stage together. I found myself wondering, in the opening scene, what motivated and characterized Dylan Godwin as Stevie. He acted his role. I came to empathize with him on stage. The story moved well enough. I had a little trouble making it through the seventh eighth of the first act. The second act flew by. I’m unsure of the moral theme of the play. Could it be something like “If you’re a good person, you can just get by financially” or “Don’t let your boyfriend get rich without you” or “Even false love is better than sentimental love” or “Good people are the rich ones but the poor ones have to keep thinking that they’re the good people” or “Do anything, even beg, to keep your kids comfortable” or “pride keeps people good”?
Staged in the round, with the audience surrounding the actors and stage, I started to think about the problems involved in moving the faces of the actors around, so that north, south, east and west, the audience could see them now and then. Maybe I started thinking about that because the actors sometimes looked like they were, ‘hitting spots’ on the stage and standing there facing another new direction without motivation or reason. There was a bit of standing around from Margaret and Chris Hutchinson as Mike, who looked like a doctor for a few seconds the first time we met him when he put his hands in his lab coat pockets. I tried to tell myself that the sound of strain in his voice was part of his character, maybe nodes, but in the second act I got the sense that, maybe, he was actually suffering strain and maybe damage from the way he was using his voice to yell on stage. I got the sense that all the tension of delivering the character to the audience was stuck at throat and neck level. So much of his leading-male-character time on stage was acted from the neck up and in the arms, from the shoulder down, with the rest of his body looking a bit like a wooden platform to rest head and shoulders upon. His posture as seemingly strained as his voice, he did deliver some lines extremely well, being one of the actors whose timing was well on-target much of the time.
Not a fairy tale, some of the humor comes from hearing old ladies curse in crudely Bostonian ways. We used to use soap opera stories for acting improvisations in Uta Hagen inspired acting classes. I don’t know what elevates a story above soap opera. Is it in the sense of reality? James used to come to the first rehearsal with his character already pretty well set. The characters showed up. Krystel Lucas, as the wife, showed up. She even came alive at times. Some good belly laughs and some unstoppable laughter lines. Characters delivering lines well — what more could the audience ask for?