Trustus Theatre’s latest Black Box production, Almost an Evening, shows us that while it may take two Coen brothers to bring their signature “What the hell was that????”-ness to films, one Coen brother (Ethan) is more than up to the task of bringing that same mind-bending (perhaps mind-humping would be a better word) writing style to the theatre.
The show consists of three one-act vignettes, featuring 8 cast members, most of whom appear in all three plays, in dramatically different roles. While most productions of Almost an Evening have the same director for each of the plays, Trustus split this task between three directors, and with mixed results.
Part one is directed by Heather McCue, and aptly titled, “Waiting”. It takes place in the most depressing waiting room you could possibly imagine. This is where Nelson, played by Gerald Floyd, suddenly finds himself. He soon surmises that this is purgatory, and is reassured that he will be going to heaven in a mere 822 years. What follows is an exploration of one man’s high-stakes struggle with bureaucracy and despair. Floyd makes a sympathetic and realistic Everyman, and brings a great deal of emotional range to his role. Jason Stokes makes a brilliantly snarky Mr. Sebatacheck. The Receptionist, played by Vicky Saye Henderson, barely speaks, but manages to say pleeeeenty. The whole thing is darkly funny, and the ending (or lack thereof) will surprise you.
Part Two, Four Benches, directed by Daniel Bumgardner, felt a bit lacking in comparison. The action of this vignette occurs between four benches, hence the title. Kendrick Marion plays a secret agent with a heavy heart and a guilty conscience – but it felt as if Marion was in the wrong play. His performance seemed forced, with lots of mugging and a poorly executed British accent. His stiff mannerisms didn’t play as his character being uncomfortable in a tragic situation, but rather as an actor who isn’t comfortable in his role. The other two main characters, played by Stokes and Floyd, were vastly more fleshed out and compelling, and delivered their heavy Texas accents convincingly. This had the potential to be the most powerful and moving of the three vignettes, but it never quite happened.
Part Three is easily the most lighthearted part of this show, and the best-acted. Directed by Larry Hembree, Debate opens as a bizarre play-within-a-play argument between a God Who Judges and a God Who Loves, but soon evolves into a heated battle of the sexes. Shane Silman, who plays bit parts in the other vignettes, is a perfect ego-driven playwright/actor who just wants a little respect (and a lot of praise, dammit.) Here Marion absolutely shines as a peevish and pissed-off Maître D’. He shows great flair for comedic timing and physical comedy, and is obviously in his element. Henderson is a sweet girlfriend with an edge whom you really shouldn’t piss off (when the glasses come off, you’re in trouble) and Robin Gottlieb is a delightfully spunky partner for a bickering session with Stokes. It ends on an upbeat note, as if to cleanse the audience’s pallet of all the darkness and despair of the first two plays, so they can go grab a cocktail with almost-easy minds.
Almost an Evening runs from June 20th-June 30th, with performances at 7:30 PM on Wednesdays, and 11:30 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. This is definitely an adults-only show (why would you have the kiddos up at 11:30 PM anyways?) with profanity, violence, and nudity (ladies…you are in for a treat!) Clocking in at just under an hour and a half, Almost an Evening will easily provide a thought-provoking and humorous night of entertainment…no almost about it.
~ Jillian Owens