BWW Review: NCTC's BRIGHT HALF LIFE is Sweet but Lacks Engaging Characters
The theater is filled with some of the greatest love stories, "Romeo and Juliet", "Mary's Wedding", and "Falsettos" just to name a few of my favorites. But in order to engage an audience in a love story you need to give them a reason to invest in the relationship whether that's through a specific circumstance or interesting characters. Unfortunately New Century Theatre Company's current production of "Bright Half Life" has neither of those. What it has is two average people going through moments in their relationship utilizing a storytelling device that I've seen done better and what results is a love story that's about as engaging as reading a collection of a vague acquaintance's Facebook posts about their love life.
Tanya Barfield's script has no straight forward timeline as she hops from one moment to the next and back again in the relationship of Vicky and Erica (Tracy Michelle Hughes and Rhonda J. Soikowski). This 85 minute one act visits all the various stages of their relationship from meeting to good and bad dates to family and beyond. And really that's about it. Sure there's drama in their relationship and tragedy and happiness but the same could be said for any relationship. It's called life.
What I had trouble grabbing hold of here is why I should care about these lives. The characters she's created are not particularly noteworthy nor are they very well developed. We only ever get the most basic information about either of them and why they act as they do resulting in a play with very little character arc with which to engage. Director HATLO does a decent job with the time shifts but even some of those felt clunky and were not aided by the lighting effects of Jessica Trundy. Both seemed to have an interesting idea on aiding in the shifts by filling the bare stage with various kinds of lights and going from one light to the next to indicate different moments or locales. The problem is that there were so many lights on stage and so many similar ones that very few of them evoked a specific time or place.
Hughes and Soikowski are likable enough in the roles. They're both fine actresses and I've been impressed with their work in other roles but here there didn't seem to be much growth or journey for their characters. But then that could be the fault of the script.
I've come to expect great things from New Century Theatre Company. In fact some of the best things I've ever seen have come from them including the aforementioned "Mary's Wedding". But I guess you can't win them all which leads me, with my three letter rating system, to give their production of "Bright Half Life" a disappointed MEH-. In a note in the program they mention that the company's mission is to present intimate, honest and bold theater and they usually do. But this one wasn't particularly intimate or bold and as for honesty, well, sure it was but not every love story needs to be told.