BWW Reviews: A SHORT STAY AT CARRANOR by William Blinn has its Los Angeles Premiere at Theatre West
What if you had a second chance to rekindle your first love? Surely most of us wonder what happened to the young man or woman who meant so much to us when we were too young to appreciate what losing that love might do to the rest of our lives. Such is the story of Irene and Chet who met when she was a young 18 year old and he was a more experienced soldier of 24 who had been around the world in the Army during World War II. Given the choice by her parents of giving up her chance at a college education if she stayed with Chet, Irene gave him up and both then went on to marry others, but never stopped being in love..
A SHORT STAY AT CARRANOR by two-time EMMY winner William Blinn begins when we meet Irene (Lee Meriwether) at age 70, an aging widow who, since her husband's death, has reunited with Chet (Don Moss) to resume the love relationship that they began decades ago. It would all be so beautiful and fine, if only there weren't several complications.
Chet's wife, Diane (Mary Burkin), is still alive and to make things more complicated, they're still married. Chet has made it known to Diane that he is moving into Carranor, the summer home of his first love and intends to spend as much as of his remaining life as he possibly can with Irene. That may not be so long, as Chet is ailing from congestive heart failure that is progressively taking a toll on him.
Irene's overprotective daughter, Shelby (Corinne Shor), is angry that her mother might find comfort in the arms of any man other than her father, especially someone who is a right-winger. But much of Shelby's frustration lies in the fact her own marriage to Alan (George Tovar) is slowly unraveling.
While I am sure the play is meant to be seen as an affirmation of the enduring power of true love while taking an unblinking look at the harsh realities of making relationships work, it fell flat on the night I saw it. The actors presented us with one-dimensional characters who just stand around and talk to each other with little movement or emotional differentiation. In a play this serious, it would benefit the flow if the actors had been directed to use movement to forward the action rather than just letting the depressing subject matter bog down the entire play.
Ms. Meriwether was especially stiff in her character, often just standing still for long periods of time and reciting her lines as if reading from the script, which she probably should have done given her very apparent dropped lines. It takes a special kind of mother to love a child like self-centered Shelby, but Ms. Meriwether never gives us any inkling as to how that relationship survives her daughter's wrath. Ms. Shor would do well to let us see some variation in her character as her anger from the moment she takes the stage will cause you to hate her from the very beginning. Her rather swift turnaround at the end of the play then seems thrown in like a deus ex machina in Greek tragedy so that loose ends can be tied up quickly. I hope as the play run continues at Theatre West that Ms. Meriwether and Ms. Shor will develop a more fully-realized mother-daughter relationship so we care about whether or not things work out for them.
The men in the play fare much better, especially Greg Lewis as the fisherman neighbor Mr. Dibble who befriends Chet and makes it seem as if catching the largest bass in a contest is the best thing that ever happened to him. George Tovar fully embodies the long-suffering husband who ultimately forces his wife to put aside her anger to save their marriage. His willingness to take on kitchen duty, complete with frilly apron, added a much needed spark of levity. Don Moss effectively shows us Chet's deep love for Irene, his sense of responsibility to his family, but more to his own needs first with the end so near. He even manages to show us some fine moments of humor amid the sadness in his life. As his health declines, Moss gives us someone we truly care about and his outburst after a phone conversation with his wife will have you routing for him to survive its aftermath. If only we cared about the other characters as much.
A SHORT STAY AT CARRANOR: Los Angeles premiere engagement of a play written by William Blinn. Directed by John Gallogly. Produced by Charlie Mount. Presented by Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West., in Los Angeles, CA 90068. There is free parking in a lot across the street. This is near Universal City, North Hollywood and Studio City. Runs August 23- September 29, 2013. Fri. & Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 2:00.
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