Short on the cries but long on southern discomfort, Lisa Roth's new drama examines the lives of four Texan sisters as they reunite for their father's funeral. With wonderful set and lighting design, the production value is high for this piece. The pacing, however, makes for an uneven drama with climaxes and points of conflict that are foreseeable and powerless.
Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
With a stage the size of Mick Jagger's walk-in closet (on ABC's Knights of Prosperity), anticipating an intimate experience at Manhattan Theatre Source's production of Lisa Roth's Coming or Going seems justified. After all, as I walk into the space, I tread on the pebbled, dirt pathway that signifies the “backyard.” With porch railings and wicker furniture, the setting is authentic and inviting. Unfortunately, not everything is as cushy.
Tracey B. Wilson plays Meredith, the protagonist and only character who left her hometown. With a flat monotone and a desire to “act” without regard for her scene partners, Wilson seems to forget that the medium is the stage, and not the soap opera sets that she has frequented in her career. She's not entirely to blame for her woodenness, though. As the first person to enter the stage, her emotional life is never established by Roth, and she proceeds through the play as if she doesn't own one. If being a New York transplant to Roth means aloofness and dark eye shadow, Tracey Wilson has Meredith down pat.
Wilson and Christopher Blessitt (Bryan Manning) take Leslie Cloninger's direction well to establish history and camaraderie in their physical actions, but they lack the connection that warrants the play's future plot developments. As the eunuch in the play, Manning has very little to do and does little with what he has been given.
As Bryan's live-in girlfriend and the baby sister, Amanda Hilson (Jen) conveys the right mixture of southern grace and underlying animosity to enliven her character. She is aided greatly, however, by her interactions with Amy Dickenson (Maureen or Mo). As the oldest and most caregiving, Dickenson embodies her character with warmth and wonderful talent. Every scene with her is an exercise in raw ability, and she is key in approximating the endearing moments that are much in the vein of Steel Magnolias. Her acting chops make everyone who shares a scene with her rise to the occasion. Even Shannon Yocum (Betsy), not exactly an acting lightweight herself, is able to communicate a thing or two as the devout Christian with Dickenson's earnest promptings.
Thematically, there are many delays in both the playwright and the characters' purposes. The dialogue, admittedly some of it very sharp, rages on without a cap before we discover that this is a play about the complexities of women's lives and the ever present opportunity to start over. Acts One and Two are imbalanced, as Roth inserts revelations in places that should be prefaced much earlier, and weaves a plot with tardy, frayed edges. As a result, this piece does not make a big impact emotionally because the audience's sensibilities are not invested. Despite beautiful, mood-sensitive lighting and good sound effects, Coming or Going is not the tearjerker that Roth envisions. But perhaps she inadvertently concedes that in attempting to navigate through the female emotive spectrum , “it's never going to be perfect.”
Now playing through March 10th. Manhattan TheatreSource
177 MacDougal StreetNew York, NY 10011Tickets: 212-352-3101
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