There is something familiar about The Main(e) Play - two siblings, growing apart, facing each other amid the mess of their childhood … but familiarity is not always a bad thing – in fact, it is often underrated. The familiar – as long as it is not the repeated – can resonate.
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper
We all have stereotypes in our mind – whether we recognize it or not. With The Main(e) Play, the stereotypes on stage are, in many ways, the expected for a play placed in a small blue-collar town. Centering around two brothers, Shane and Roy, the entire story takes place in the living room of their childhood house. Shane (Alexander Alioto) has just come back home to Maine for Thanksgiving. He’s an actor in New York who is regularly working, and currently receiving notoriety for his appearance in a national GAP commercial. Roy (Michael Gladis), on the other hand, has never moved out of the house they grew up in. He’s had the same job laying cement for years, and is raising his troublemaker son as a single father.
There is something familiar about this play - two siblings, growing apart, facing each other amid the mess of their childhood … but familiarity is not always a bad thing – in fact, it is often underrated. Storylines can feel closer to home. Characters, and their choices can hit our emotions harder. The familiar – as long as it is not the repeated – can resonate.
For the most part, the recognizable aspects of The Main(e) play work in its favor. We watch Shane trip over his nephew’s Legos; we see him sprawled asleep on the floor, amid a post-coital mess of bedding. These are the mistakes, big and small, that are real everyday for so many of us. His brother Roy, comparatively, has grown passive; the mistakes he makes are of not making any: He lives with his past choices, waiting to see if change will stumble upon him.
And then there’s Jess, Shane’s ex, who consistently seems to gravitate toward Shane, no matter the stickiness of the situation (she's currently dating Roy's best friend). It is poignantly unclear whether Shane falling back into Jess is a result of dwelling in the past, or of building something new out of the wreckage.
Alioto and Gladis have contrasting acting styles, but they are both skilled, and their different approaches highlight the ways these two brothers will always be different from each other. Most importantly, the two are comfortable enough with their characters to make apparent that there is more stirring within them each than is said aloud. The cast is rounded out by three others – an agreeable Susan Dahl as the ex, Jess; Curran Connor, who is an appropriately large presence as Roy’s buddy Rooster; and Allyson Morgan, who cameos as an entertaining teen girl scout.
Perhaps most refreshing is the lack of any huge, messed-up-past for these anti-heroes. Instead, we learn about the tangible life-changing events that brought these two to their life impasses. True, this is a story that is modest in scope, and so the overall effect does not add up to a theatrical revelation. But the result is a play which actually succeeds in its goals, relating its point of view, and allowing the audience to gently re-examine some of our own perspectives, and if we are lucky, even some of our own past choices.
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.