BWW Reviews: THE EQUATION from Theatre 9/12 Two Stories that Don't Quite Hold Together
A new work is always a risk even from author Charles Waxberg who gave us the amazing "A Shade of Green" a few years back. In this case from Theatre 9/12 we kind of have two works from Waxberg with his new play "The Equation". And while the performances in the piece were admirable, only one of the stories held together (for the most part) while the other left me completely confused.
Let's take them one at a time. First off we're introduced to Arash (Eric Olson) a 1950's salesman who seems to know the audience is there and from the future. Already I'm uneasy about this convention. Breaking the fourth wall in a play is fine but stop trying to have a conversation with me. And Arash is telling us about his various jobs over time as well as about his Mother. Really that's all I got from this portion of the show as I never quite understood how he got to where he was and what it all had to do with the rest of the piece other than that he was related to the other characters, hence the confusion.
Over to the other story we are sent back to the 1930's and are told a tale of a Russian immigrant, Pandora (Colleen Carey) who gives up her child to be raised by a Doctor (Joey Fechtel) and his wife (Monica Finney). But the scenes for this story are told in reverse order so we discover the outcome before we realize the events that led to them. It's a convention that can work and does to some extent but elements of this half of the play too needed a little clarity if they were to keep the story cohesive. Ultimately it's a very sweet story with some truly engaging characters but required a little too much speculation between myself and my theater companion on the car ride home for my taste. And we're still not completely certain we got it right.
The cast does a fine job with the script as it is but even fine performances would not have made the whole thing clear. Olson is good as the 50's salesman but felt a little one note in the role. But that could just be the confusion talking. Cynthia Geary does well with her multiple roles (at least I think they were multiple roles and not one, which was one point of contention on the car ride). But it's reAlly Carey, Finney and Fechtel that hold the piece together and make the story as enjoyable as it is. Carey's desperate immigrant is powerful and she manages a kind of world weary pain to her performance. Finney turns in a fine arc throughout and is completely sympathetic. And Fechtel is totally engaging with tons of stage presence and manages a quite layered performance.
Theatre 9/12 has a history of being a small but mighty company turning in some real gems and stirring performances. But as I said, no performance would make complete sense out of these two storylines. That would require some rewrites. So when looking at this with my three letter review system I'm forced to actually give it two ratings. A MEH+ for some interesting performances in one half of the play and a WTF for the other half that not even a speculative car ride could unravel.
"The Equation" from Theatre 9/12 performs at Trinity Parish Church through February 15th and all performances are pay what you can. For tickets or information contact the Theatre 9/12 box office at 206-332-7908 or visit them online at www.Theatre912.com.