BWW Reviews: THE STORY OF MY LIFE - A Funny, Touching Reminder of the Value of Friendship
"The Story of My Life" is a warm, funny, touching reminder of the true value that a special friendship can have, and the unfortunate ease with which we can, and so often do, allow it to fade away. It will entertain and amuse you, but you might well leave the theater as I did - reviewing the texture of half-forgotten relationships.
Tom Weaver (Ben Dibble) is struggling to write a eulogy for his friend Alvin. He reminds himself to "Write What You Know" and his past is restored in the form of Alvin (Rob McClure) in his bookstore. Since the Alvin we encounter is aware of Tom's difficulty and engages him in dialogue, he is more than a memory; is he an angel?
Through a somewhat recursive combination of dialogue and song we learn the history and significance of their friendship, which began when a perceptive first grade teacher ("Mrs. Remington") put the two loners - introvert Tom and extrovert Alvin - together, based on their shared fascination with Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life." Watching the movie and making "Angels in the Snow" became integral parts of their lives.
Their almost symbiotic existence begins to dissolve when Tom goes off to college and Alvin stays behind, working in and, eventually, inheriting his father's bookstore, as well as his father's talent for knowing just what book a person needs. Alvin also has a lot of stories - brief sketches of stories - that he shares with Tom. When he hears how Tom has turned one of these ("The Butterfly") into a beautiful fable to accompany his college application, he drops his objection to Tom's departure.
Tom becomes a successful writer and moves to the big city. He visits regularly, but he doesn't return. As tom seeks the thread of Alvin's eulogy, we (and he) see that Tom's successes were unconsciously derived from Alvin's inspiration; Alvin is the foundation of Tom's writing career. We also see that, over time and despite Alvin's attempts to maintain their relationship, Tom lets the gap grow wider with each passing year. He didn't burn his bridges, he simply let them grow weaker over time, until one last little push resulted in complete collapse - which is why, when his friend's life ended, he wasn't there to know or understand what happened.
Under Bud Martin's direction, Ben Dibble and Rob McClure look and play their parts perfectly - Tom, the successful, conservative, reserved writer, and Alvin, the excited, imaginative, open-hearted friend. Tom's conservative business suit signaled his careful, thoughtful speech and movement; Alvin's frenetic, almost driven energy was matched by his more casual, open-shirted appearance. Full marks to costume designer Wade Laboissonniere for helping to establish the almost antipodal characters presented by the actors.
Dirk Durossette's set is impressive in its simplicity. White on white, like a blank page on which to write the story, most of it represents the bookstore - ladder, shelves, books, papers, a table and chair - all white. Down left, below the curtain, a white podium on a giant book (yes, white) provides a site from which to deliver a eulogy. The white floor and backdrop complete the picture, but I didn't appreciate them fully until Alvin, in a burst of energy used them to make an unusual progress around the stage.
With an all-white set, Jim Leitner implied changes scenes and moods with a clever selection of gobos, filters, and effects. The musical performance is ably supported by a six-piece orchestra - Tom Fosnocht (Piano/Director), Stephanie Esposito (Clarinet), Set Rodriguez (Violin), Kate Martin (Viola), Richard Jones (Cello), and Jerrell Jackson (Bass) - whose off-stage work is enhanced by the efforts of Carl Casella's sound design