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FlynnSpace, Burlington, VT
Wednesday, April 24 through Sunday, May 5, 2002
Dana Yeaton's new play, THE BIG RANDOM, lives up to it's billing as a comedy/drama. After seeing his adaptation of MIDWIVES I knew he was a good dramatic writer, but didn't know he was also adept at comedy. Of course when writing about the initial production of a new work, the play itself comes under close scrutiny.
Mr. Yeaton has shaped his story around a 15-year old girl with psychological problems and the man who takes her from a mental hospital to try to straighten her out. The girl, Claire, is a fascinating character who sees herself as the heroine of various romantic scenarios. In actuality she has become a prisoner of her own vivid imagination.
Mr. Yeaton has also written roles for a man and a woman who play all the minor characters who move the plot along. He's managed to sketch believable characters using very few lines.
There's something not quite complete about the character of Roland, the man who tries to help Claire. We need to know him better and need to know why he's doing this. There are too many unanswered questions about him. For example, is he really Canadian? And how has he found out that Claire's in the hospital? Although in Act II he says, "I would like in my life to do one right thing," at times it feels as if he's there only as a catalyst for Claire.
Hallie Zieselman's set and lighting are simple and effective, as are Angela Brande's costumes. Mike Lounsberry's sound and Arthur Blume's music are both excellent as well as appropriate.
As the Man, Harry McEnery does a nice job in multiple roles, with the exception of an awkward French-Canadian accent. Melissa Lourie has a wonderful time as the Woman, giving us a couple of wildly different and hilarious waitresses, among other cameos. Roland is played by Stephen Paul Johnson, who does a good job of portraying a man trying to deal with not only teen-aged brattiness, but also her genuine psychological pain.
Genia Michaela is an absolute knockout as Claire, the troubled self-mutilating teenager. She is a spoiled Brat, but also lonely, vulnerable, and ultimately touching. Ms. Michaela is wonderful when depicting Claire's self-dramatizing streak of teenage angst. Ultimately her imagination begins to fail in the face of reality. It's a multi-faceted, powerful performance of a beautifully written character.
Director Jim Gaylord, who did such a fine job with MIDWIVES, keeps things moving with interesting staging and tight pacing. Dealing with a number of short scenes can make a play feel choppy, but this one doesn't. I do wish, though, that he and Mr. Yeaton had gotten together on some judicious trimming of the Saint Anne scene.
All in all, Mr. Yeaton's play, although rough in spots, works and provides an evening in the theatre that is both thought provoking and entertaining. THE BIG RANDOM provides a suitable finale for Vermont Stage Company's fifth season. Artistic Director Mark Nash should be justly proud of having put together a season of such consistently high quality. I look forward to next year.
On a scale of one to five, the Vermont Stage Company's production of THE BIG RANDOM gets four and one-third ferry boats. For North Country Public Radio, I'm Connie Meng.