nytheatre.com review by Dianna Tucker Baritot
July 15, 2007
Papa's Will is a play about a 25-year old man-child coming to terms with the death of his grandfather and the departure of his mother. It's a tender and introspective treatment of depression, loss, career, and friendship. The story centers around a budding writer named Will, his best friend Carl, his father, his deceased grandfather Papa Gene, and a triangulated love interest, Madison.
The five actors (respectively, Marshall Sharer, Brett Friedmann, Stu Richel, Sam Antar, and Kat Lower) give genuine, thoughtful performances, but seemed under-rehearsed during some of the rapid dialogue. The author has written scenes involving interrupted lines and cut-off sentences, which, in this particular performance, seem to have some unintended space between them.
The attention to technical details in this production is uneven. The production crew went to the trouble of ensuring a new outfit for each actor in each scene, even going so far as to provide bowling shoes for a date at the lanes, but when a ball is bowled (indicated by the bowler walking offstage, pausing, and then walking back on), it's done in complete silence. Is there no sound system? Actors sometimes find themselves delivering lines in pockets of darkness, walking in and out of the stage light. And I wish that Rob Egginton, the playwright/director, could have found a way to write and stage the play without a blackout after each two-minute scene, adding what must have been ten minutes to the production, and interrupting the flow of what might have been, under different circumstances, a smoothly told story (and also proving, due to scene change music, that the theater DOES have a sound system.)
While Will, the play's anti-hero, makes an interesting journey through his darkness with the help of his ghostly grandfather, the rest of the characters experience very little development. There are several instances of betrayal, jealousy, and competition (which is as much as I can divulge without risking a spoiler) that seem to evoke only the minutest of reactions from the characters being betrayed or disappointed: no one seems to insist on retribution for transgressions against them or to pay any real consequences for their own. I was also curious to know how any one makes their living; not one person mentions having a paying job. These are the little holes left in the story: Egginton appears to be "a sucker for the written word," as Will says he is, and I'd be interested to see what he'll bring to the stage in the future, but I'd like to see a more fleshed out work with a little more substance. Time spent workshopping and developing this particular script might help to bring out a more compelling tale.