BWW Reviews: It's a Choppy RIDE with Some Interesting People at None Too Fragile
(Member, American Theatre Critics Association & Cleveland Critics Circle)
Eric Lane is a prolific and prize winning playwright. His plays include "Times of War," "Filming O'Keefe," "Floating," and "Dancing on Checkers' Grave." Never heard of them? You are not alone. In spite of his recognition for writing some episodes for TV's "Ryan's Hope," his scripts are not on the list of the most published plays.
His "Ride," which is now in production at Akron's none too fragile theatre, is more of a performance device for three strong actresses, than a story that will grab and hold your attention. In fact, the vignette writing format, in which there are more than ten scenes bridged together with music, often makes for a choppy sit. An uneven ride, in this case.
The story concerns a young girl (Sam), her older sister (Carrie), and the sister's fellow worker at a summer fruit stand (Molly).
Sam, who is both brilliant and impulsive, and Carrie, are the children of a loving father, who died early, and a mother who is having trouble coping with her husband's loss. She works long hours. She has daughters who are angst filled. Sam has a fear of death and investigates all possible causes of demise...faulty tire brands, poorly working airbags, and non-healthy foods. Carrie, who wants to go to college, is working at a summer fruit stand in order to make money to allow her to supplement her university scholarship. She is concerned about how impetuous Sam will be able to survive with little parental supervision when Carrie goes off to college.
Molly, the daughter of a wealthy and abusive father, who makes up for his physical abusiveness by buying his daughter "things," such as a new expensive car, to amend for his actions, is mad at her mother for putting up with the abuse, and with her father, not only for his aggressiveness, but also for his infidelities. Full of revenge, she wants to "destroy" her father's mistress, who resides in Florida.
The fragile friendship bond between Carrie and Molly manifests into a ride to the Sunshine State, as planned by Molly, for which, for some unrevealed reason Carrie agrees to participate in, while dragging along Sam.
As their ride to Florida progresses, the emotional sense of each girl somewhat emerges.
More than a plot driven play in which depth of problems and story intricacies emerge, Lane has written character studies, which are acting exercises. Fortunately, none so fragile has cast three superlative actresses.
Young Ireland Derry creates Sam into such a realistic person that not a bit of role playing is present. She doesn't act Sam, she is Sam. Every line, every gesture, every intonation are Sam! Wow!
Alanna Romansky has a complex acting issue with portraying Carrie. She both must be "in the moment," being a sister to Sam and being conflicted with issues regarding her widowed mother, and the death of her father, but also must be a narrator to the audience, developing what may be the major issue of the play. She shares with the audience her observations about Anne Frank, who was the topic of a high-school composition. She wonders "if everyone isn't living in hiding in their own secret annex." She pulls off both levels of performance with believability.
Rachel Roberts creates in Molly a definite presence of a lack of mooring. Blessed with an abusive father, and a enabling mother, Molly needs to be both angst-driven and impulsive. Roberts creates a Molly who is both.
The play's structure, many short vignettes, makes for a choppy ride. This is not helped by director Sean Derry's adding long musical bridges between each of the scenes, and then adding a long intermission between acts, thus chopping up the conceptual flow. In spite of the fact that the music was well selected to introduce each scene, the production would have been much more compact and enfolding if there was less or shorter musical interludes and the play had been done as a long one-act, with no intermission. Since realistic scenery is not a necessity, the many set pieces could have been eliminated, thus eliminating the intermission which served mainly as a time to change the set.
Capsule judgement: Eric Lane's RIDE is more a character study than a well-structured play. It is both the strength and weakness of the script. Regardless of the message, or lack of message, or quality, or lack of quality of the script, it is worth going to see the production, to be exposed to the talented cast, especially to seventh grader Ireland Derry. You will be one of the first to experience "a star being born," in this, her theatrical debut!
"Ride" runs through August 30, 2014 at none too fragile theater which is located in Bricco's Restaurant, 1841 Merriman Road, Akron.
Warning: There is free valet parking offered. I'd advise against using it. When I went out to get my car after the production, the valet had gone home. When I found my car, the motor was running, the doors unlocked! The car could have easily been stolen. Bricco's manager attempted to "get off the hook," by saying that the parking is not done by the restaurant employees, but by an outside company. Sorry, it's on Bricco's property. Bricco's supplies the service! They are responsible! After numerous complaints, I avoid the restaurant because continued poor service. Now I also have to avoid the valet parking. Not good!
For tickets call 330-671-4563 or go to http://www.nonetoofragile.com
The theatre's next production is Cormac McCarthy's "Sunset Limited," a play in which Black and White, debate the meaning of human suffering, the existence of God, and the propriety of suicide.