I make it a point of never researching something I have never seen before I go see it. I love the feeling of being exposed to new material and trying to fit that new content into what I have experience previously. When I walked into the Sugar Space for opening night of The Pavillion I noticed almost a complete absence of a set. Usually a minimal set suggest a certain type of play where we dive very deep into very dark into places and feelings that most people are less then comfortable with and what better vehicle to use then a play by Craig Wright. So I sat down with my playbill and buckled up for what I was expecting to be at the best a deep thinking and emotionally draining ride.
Then I started reading and this sentence from Co-Director Michele Case Rideout in her Director’s Notes caught my attention: “I am a big fan of Craig Wright’s writing, and while some of his other works can get down right dark, this piece has enough wonder and romanticism to balance out the heavier bits.” The opening dialogue from the Narrators played by Brian Pilling and Julie Mylan Simonich where they describe how the universe begins and a very abbreviated recount of human history with a little bit of humor thrown in such as asking the sound tech for dinner music with the sound of a water skier. Which is a little dry sure but people with dark minds, if they have a sense of humor at all, it is going to be dry. So pay very close attention while some of the humor was amazingly accessible some of the best jokes are dry and you have to be following closely to get all of them.
The Narrators set the stage of a high school 20 year reunion and one of the main character’s, Peter played by Allen Smith is introduced to us as “one-half of the Cutest Senior Couple.” Then the Narrators begin the task of having to assume the roles of all the minor characters as well. I felt that both Pilling and Simonich did a good job at this task. I especially enjoyed how both of them distinguished between each one of their characters by giving them all a different but appropriate treatment. I also enjoyed Simonich’s treatment of the Minnesota accent, something that I am sure Wright, who was born in Puerto Rico but did his undergrad and Master’s studies in Minnesota, probably really enjoyed using as a joke.
Peter is at the reunion to attempt re-write history or at the very least try and reshape the future. He left his girl-friend Kari played by Cami Rozanas to run off to college after he learned she was pregnant. Kari later had an abortion, and is now in an unfulfilling marriage. Peter is also struggling with relationships and realizes he now has another chance to revisit the past and is hoping he can convince Kari to give him another chance.
Specifically at Wright’s direction, the set is supposed to only contain two benches so that all the focus is on the actors and it is up to them to tell the story completely on their own. Smith and Rozanas definitely delivered on this point. The Narrators helped keep things on track by letting us know what time it was in the evening and some of the events that were unfolding around in the room with the others that were there and assuming those additional roles when necessary.
Smith handed the role of Peter, the kid who was scared, escaped to college, went on into the adult world but never really grew up masterfully. While he seemed adult and educated his views on the world and what he thinks is possible is child-like in the sense that it literally has no bounds. The kind of attitude you would expect someone to have who has never really been dealt any of life’s hard and sobering lessons. He begins to get one of those lessons in this production and still is always looking for a way out and has no way to process or accept that there are things that he cannot control.
Rozanas brought to life Kari: the high school girl trapped in an adults body. Who she is and how she acts has been largely unchanged since high school as she was instantly “saved” by her current husband after Peter ran off. She has had to accept everything life has thrown at her and has done it with grace and never really had the time to think “what if…” and has never really accepted her fate or lived her life.
This show is short and seems shorter without scene changes and people moving off and on stage but as a result this format allows for a lot more material to be able to be presented. Tech for the show was good. The soundscape by Mikal Troy Klee was appropriate for the different moods, however at times it was difficult to hear. The Lighting Design by Austin Stephenson was creative, however when the two Narrators stood together there were times when their faces were not completely lit and difficult to see.
While I don’t like to do my homework before the show, I always do it after. I applaud Michele Case Rideout and Amy C. Allred for their decision to have both a male and a female narrator instead of just one since both male and female characters needed to be played and I like the way they divided up the narrator only dialogue at the beginning and end of the play.
I also applaud them for their content advisory, this is the best one I have seen so far, on Silver Summit Theatre’s website they have posted the following: “CONTENT ADVISORY: For mature audiences. If this were a film, it would be rated PG-13 by MPAA standards for the following references to or actual presentation of the following: Abortion (reference), Alcohol Use, Pot Use (reference only), Teenage Pregnancy (reference, memory), Sexual References (no sexual situations), and Strong Language including profanity and the use of Divinity in vain (including asshole, Jesus Christ, G_d, shit, G-d-damn/ed, hell, pissed, f’ing <edited>).” I have seen and heard way more content with way far less of an advisory, so this is a fantastic job of warning people exactly what they are going to experience.
I found this play to be very enjoyable and very accessible to almost everyone, and a reminder that our actions always have consequences and eventually every decision we make and everything we do does catch up with us. Michele Case Rideout’s Director’s Notes state: “The themes of this play are universal, which is exactly what I think Mr. Wright is trying to tell us. We only get this much time, and this many people in our lives, and we make the choices we make and we live with them.”
Silver Summit Theatre Company’s production of “The Pavillion” performs June 6 – 22 Friday’s and Saturday’s at 8:00 pm with Matinee performances on Sundays at 4pm at The Sugar Space Studio for the Arts, 616 Wilmington Ave., Salt Lake City. Tickets are $15 in advance online or $18 at the door. They are available at http://silversummittheatre.org. Running time: Approx. 1 hour 35 minutes, 15 minute intermission.