REVIEW — The Rogue Valley is a diverse theater community, with venues for everything from highly polished professional productions to amateur efforts. Regardless of the type of production, our community strongly supports local talent and new writers.
The Rogue Valley is a diverse theater community, with venues for everything from highly polished professional productions to amateur efforts. Regardless of the type of production, our community strongly supports local talent and new writers.
"Leave It On the Stage," from Thanks for the Memories Theatre Company, is a well-intended amateur work playing at the Oak Street Dance Studio. It was written by local playwright Peter Wickliffe, who also directs and co-stars in the production. The story centers around the relationship between two dancers, Mike, played by Wickliffe, and Holly, played by Marci McComas, who meet once a week to dance together in a small, empty theater.
Although supposedly close friends, the two seem to know very little about one another. Holly is stunned to learn Mike is engaged to be married. The news leads to a surprise realization of her hidden feelings for Mike. Another devastating bombshell drops in the second act.
To write, direct and star in a show is a tall order for any artist, and Wickliffe can be applauded for his ambition. It's likely the show will improve over its run as the actors become more practiced with their lines and their steps. Nonetheless, the opening night performance of "Leave It On the Stage" was hard to enjoy.
A space as small as the Oak Street Dance Studio can be intimate and inviting, but in this case the set, composed of only a boom box on a small folding table, feels uncomfortably bare. The actors have nowhere to hide in the tiny theater and nothing to engage with beyond each other. As a result, the play hinges entirely on dialogue and movement, but it is weak on both fronts.
Sarah Gore, the play's choreographer, created routines that match the mood of each scene, like a fast-paced tango during an argument or a slow waltz at a tender moment. It's a good device that, if executed by skilled dancers, could have intensified the drama. For a play about a relationship built around dance, I wish Wickliffe had chosen to cast stronger dancers in the lead roles.
Language is even more important to this character-driven play than dance. Unfortunately, the dialogue is often trite and unrealistic. There are moments of conversation between the two characters that do ring true. Overall, though, it is difficult to care about the underdeveloped characters.
Wickliffe and McComas are not bad actors. The audience wants to root for their characters, though it is never made clear what we are rooting for. After the first act we know we can't root for their love, and after the second act we can't root for their future. So, we are left rooting for the two hard-working actors themselves, especially the playwright, hoping he continues to offer this community his obvious passion for the theater.
The Thanks for the Memories Theatre Company's mission is to create memories by presenting unique, heartfelt theater. In this regard, the play is partly successful. The script, though immature, is an original work by a local playwright. The production, though flawed, is earnest and sincere.
"Leave It On the Stage" runs July 7, 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 8 p.m., plus matinees at 1 p.m. on July 13 and 20, at 1287 Oak St., in Ashland.
All performances cost $10. Tickets are available online at www.TFTMtheatre.com, at Paddington Station in Ashland and at the door 30 minutes before show time.
Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.