A review of
At the WorkshopTheater
June 21, 2017
by Moshe Bloxenheim
Mr. Scott Sickles’s thoughtful play COMPOSURE is about people trying to get beyond the past: One year after a broken relationship results in a fatal campus shooting, the local college puts on a student production of ROMEO AND JULIET to commemorate the tragic anniversary. Former alumnus Fletcher is hired to direct this controversial production and after his first rehearsal he meets Jeff, a recently divorced academic who has recently begun to come to terms with his sexuality. Over the six weeks of Fletcher’s stay, the two men find themselves being drawn close to one another, but both men also are forced to come to terms with their earlier lives: Fletcher must resolve his feelings about Tommy, a bullying friend of his teenage years who left young Fletcher with more than a few damaging scars, while Jeff has to clear the air between himself, his ex-wife and the memory of his deceased brother-in-law.
The sounds of the student’s rehearsal of ROMEO AND JULIET provide a surprisingly fitting commentary on the adult’s events onstage as the play’s themes of doomed love, mishandled information, exile, etc., constantly resurface throughout COMPOSURE. In addition, Mr. Sickles’ love of language wittily permeates COMPOSURE, capitalizing on both the modern scenario and the parallel us of Shakespearean text.
Fletcher is the man around whom all the action of COMPOSURE revolves and Mr. Robert Bruce McIntosh shows the ambivalence and confusion of a person who wants to complete his task and move on but who cannot easily follow the course he had planned out for himself; whether those plans involves directing ROMEO AND JULIET, having a no-strings connection with Jeff or trying to get some sort of undefinable closure with Tommy. Mr. McIntosh’s character is all too human so even if he does not quite follow the story arc of a triumphant hero, Fletcher is likable, understandable and real.
Mr. C.K. Allen’s Jeff has the wide-eyed aspect of someone who is still new at being himself. We see Jeff’s fear about hurting people and how that complicates his own need for honesty. Jeff still has a lot to discover and Mr. Allen makes us root for him as Jeff allows himself credit as being a man who can feel desire and love.
Jeff’s ex-wife Amanda thought she had Jeff’s devotion but is now forced to confront the realities of their failed marriage and the need to stop looking back. Ms. Susan Izatt gives a fine, incisive performance, making it clear that Amanda is trying very hard not to hate her former husband but she is still not able to make peace with the fact of who he now is. We feel the control Amanda exerts over her feelings and even over Jeff and when things reach a breaking point, Ms. Izatt’s delivery of irony and anger are all the more pointed and yet still sympathetic.
Another character who still has to learn something about being loved is Beth, Tommy’s worshipful but self-denigrating wife. We might not care for a doormat, but Ms. Christine Verleney makes us care for Beth even though this character does everything she can to keep her belief in the loutish Tommy as the ideal husband. Ms. Verleney makes it pretty apparent that the moment that Beth believes in herself, Tommy will be in trouble.
Then there is Tommy.
As I have stated before, Tommy is a bully who must be everybody’s idol. Yet Mr. Rob Ventre presents this self-assured man in a way that makes me think of the sort of jerk who victims claim “…loved me – in his fashion…” Mr. Ventre’s convincing Tommy may very well believe that his brand of love is the best thing to happen to the people around him, but his manipulations and denials make it obvious that deep down he knows how wrong he is.
Christopher is a brief role, but a very significant one, and Mr. Cliff Miller clearly understands the angst and disbelief of a young man who was not only a victim of the tragedy, but is forced to survive in a story that is different from real situation and an aftermath which he has no idea how to remedy.
Under Mr. Fritz Brekeller’s direction the characters are all quite real as the people who would be encountered in a college town setting. Even Fletcher – the traveling Director – is a person determined to do the best of a difficult job with his eye already on his next task. Director Brekeller takes full advantage of Ms. Elizabet Puksto’s movable set, Ms. Diana Duecker’s lighting, Mr. Greg Emetaz’s surprising projections and Mr. Ian Wehrle’s sound design to allow the story of COMPOSURE move at its own steady pace. Using these excellent assets, the events and scenes (both contemporary and those related to ROMEO AND JULIET) can easily change and flow into one another in a cinematic way so that the momentum of the play is never lost.
Mr. Anthony Paul-Caveretta’s costumes are suitably day-to-day and give some inkling to the personalities of their wearers (such as Amanda’s more serious clothing: suitable for a divorce, an academic lecture or having an outburst at a gravesite).
With its excellent script, cast and staging, this current production of COMPOSURE offers a lot to enjoy and to think about.
COMPSURE’S last performance was on June 24, 2017
* Appears courtesy of Actors Equity Association
I am a computer programmer, wannabe writer who loves theater and just got into the habit of inflicting my theatrical opinions.
I live in New York. Moshe can be reached at MB1224@aol.com