BWW Reviews: Strong Cast and Crew Can't Save a Still UNDER CONSTRUCTION Text

The audience at last night's premiere of UNDER CONSTRUCTION, playing the Mary Moody Northern Theatre at St. Edwards University through Sunday, October 7th, loved the show.  The vast majority of the crowd roared with laughter, and most gave the show a standing ovation.

If you were one of those people, I urge you to comment below with your own review, because I just didn't get it.  While the show's cast and crew were absolute perfection, for me they could not save the uneven, unfocused text by Charles Mee.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION is a series of short scenes and vignettes, often without any relation to each other, that seem to comment on American society.  At least that's what I think the intent is.  Quite honestly, this writing is so banal and bland I really don't care to waste time deciding what the author's intentions were. 

I once had a brilliant theater teacher, Mrs. Kathy Harris, who informed me that any writer or director has to answer two questions: so what and who cares.  While sometimes it's refreshing to see a story told in a non-traditional or episodic way, I still believe that it must answer these questions.  Regardless of how the play is presented, there must be some sort of theme, through line, or unifying element, otherwise the piece becomes a haphazardly strewn together batch of nonsense.  Charles Mee sadly accomplishes the later scenario, inadvertently proving that being a writer requires more than just putting words on a page.  His scenes rarely make sense on their own let alone when part of a whole.  I'm still confused that while the vast majority of the fragments take place in the 1950s yet there are occasional moments involving blogging on laptops, arguments over cell phones, footage of the Vietnam War, and a very out-of-place dance number to the disco hit, "It's Raining Men."  The result is a very puzzling, unpleasant, and long hour and fifteen minutes of theater.

Despite the obvious flaws of the material, The Cast and crew shine.  The ten person cast (Amy Downing, Greg Holt, David Cameron Allen, Hannah Marie Founder, Sophia Franzella, Matthew Garcia, Richard Mitchell Harris, Lindsley Howard, Skyler McIntosh, and Tyler Mount) unfortunately must be reviewed together as Mee fails to give any of them a character or a moment powerful enough to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.  Still, they manage the precarious and often frantic transitions between scenes and make the most of their odd, over-caricatured, under-written characters. 

The creative team and crew all seem at the top of their game as well.  The costumes by T'Cie Mancuso are a feast for the eyes.  The men are all dressed in finely tailored slacks, the women wear finely made circle skirts, and argyle sweaters abound.  It's all very MAD MEN-esqe.  The lighting design by Kathryn Eader is delightfully moody and atmospheric, especially during an early film noir spoof, and the scenic design by Leilah Stewart is subtle and delicate.  Choreographers Danny Herman and Rocker Verastique give the piece three beautifully crafted dances.  The first is a ballet sequence in which we see the relationship of two teens from their courtship (featuring the most interestingly choreographed kiss I've seen since the SPIDERMAN movie) to their loveless marriage.  The second is a Fosse-esqe baseball number akin to DAMN YANKEES, and the third is the aforementioned "It's Raining Men," featuring a MAGIC MIKE striptease minus the stripping.  And Director David Long keeps the scenes and episodes moving quickly from one to the other as the action swirls and circles around the Moody Theatre's Arena Stage.

Though The Cast and crew all deliver move-in ready work, UNDER CONSTRUCTION is still, well, under construction.  While it's commonplace to see productions in which The Cast and crew underserve the material, here the material underserves The Cast and crew.  To The Cast and crew, I say a very enthusiastic bravo.  To Charles Mee, I say please drop your pen. 

WARNING: UNDER CONSTRUCTION features adult themes and language.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION plays the Mary Moody Northern Theatre at St. Edwards University through Sunday, October 7th.  For tickets and information, visit RUN TIME: 75 minutes with no intermission.

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From This Author Jeff Davis

Jeff Davis is a graduate of the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television where he obtained his Bachelor's Degree in Theater with an emphasis (read more...)

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