Saturday, May 28, 2011

La Jolla Playhouse: A Dram of Drummhicit

It seems that the La Jolla Playhouse has figured directly or indirectly in my theatrical life, a regional powerhouse with a track record for new play development (the one thing I feel is missing from Cleveland), at least two of my favorite musicals (The Who's Tommy, Jersey Boys) originated here -- for Jersey Boys I was in the house with director Des McAnuff and Frankie Valli before the show hit Broadway and I moved to Cleveland. For Tommy, while I never saw it at LJP one of the original cast members was involved in my high school's staging of the show. I could have sworn that I saw reference to Spring Awakening somewhere, but nonetheless, on the drama side one of the most moving I've seen -- Cleveland Play House's I Am My Own Wife -- workshopped and premiered at La Jolla.

That's not to say that there haven't been disappointments -- you can't hit it out of the park every time for everyone.

A Dram of Drummhicit wasn't the greatest offender in that category but it certainly seemed rough: The pacing and chemistry felt off, several characters felt overly stiff, and the script was full of tangential subplots that just served to obfuscate the actual point, if any. Add in some juvenile humor, and full male and female nudity and I was at best confused: Early in the play it seems that the plot to pay attention to is, essentially, dead bodies popping out of the ground, being stored in a church that no one attends, by a priest who claims that he has to hide them from the locals who just want to put them back in the ground. The locals, however, seem to have no such interest -- indeed, in the local pub the bodies are being used as coat hangers.

By the end of the first act, this thread has seemingly frayed and unraveled. A shame considering this was the most interesting part of the play and provided the most laughs. By the end of the play you're left unsure about the message, which parts were actually important, and to a certain extent the maturity of playwright and/or designers. I'll admit to briefly closing my eyes and nearly falling asleep a few times during the second act.

That's not to say that there aren't laughs: I chuckled a few times and there was a small contingent of theatergoers that laughed fairly heartily but they were the exception. The majority of the house was oddly quiet.

Not a show I have a desire to see again... but on the upside both the sound and scenic design were impressively cohesive. Also, Jersey Boys is returning to Cleveland's Playhouse Square in the not too distant future, if I'm not mistaken.


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