BWW Reviews: The Rep Presents Incomparable World Premiere: ALL THE TERRIBLE THINGS I DO
Incredible, indescribable, infuriating, inflammatory, intense---These host of words attempt to define the Milwaukee Rep's World Premiere after all the terrible things I do opening at the Stiemke Studio this fall in the Patty and Jay Baker Theatre Complex. Set in a Midwestern town beset with Midwestern sensibilities, A. Rey Pamatmat's play, his script, decimates an audience's perception of a culture, gender, race and sexual preferences that transcends discussions on merely being gay, a bully and young or simply a parent wanting to see their child survive.
Equally stunning on the Stiemke stage, Scenic Designer Daniel Zimmerman's spacious, opulent bookstore with leaded glass transoms and half moon glass pediment over the door creates a spectacular environment for "all the terrible things" spoken in this play, where the set transforms into another character for the drama. Director and Associate Artist for the Rep, May Adrales, had previously collaborated with playwright Pamatmat. So this world premiere allows Linda, a middle-aged bookstore owner and her fresh college graduate, Daniel, to be fully present and in sync when they work throughout the set's elegance. Then the contrast between the spectacular design heightens the conversations/arguments, their tragedies, when the two characters speak in the play. The audience wishes to say, be quiet and still, this is a bookstore.
Pamatmat's play crushes those allusions of what is discussed in a bookstore. When Linda's moods alternate between the bewildered mother of a gay son, Issac, and someone who mentors and oversees Daniel, Sophia Skiles completely inhabits her character while evoking sympathy and rage from the audience. A Filipino émigré who has succeeded on a business level, she believes has failed in other areas of her life.
Debuting at The Rep, actor Mark Junek posits the perfect college student aspiring to be a writer and a masculine gay artist--broad shouldered, good looking and tall, a feminine heartthrob who becomes every young women's disappointment when they discover his sexual preferences. People automatically assume "he couldn't be gay," and Daniel in turn can be intolerant, squeamish in regards to gay men who appear to "girly."
What transpires between these two co-workers caught wandering in their book stacks, literature, poems and the "real novel' Daniel writes, references Frank O'Hara's literary work, life upfront and intimately personal that appears almost surreal, similar to O'Hara's writing. Dialogue Daniel and Linda dare to keep silent, except when ripped from their hearts while working day in and day out between this tiny, tight community of bookstore workers.
To the audience, their conversations fascinate with events both surprising and irreverent, divisive and healing, gay and straight, intimate and violent, where these opposites, Danile and Sophie, attract and repel each other. People who ultimately converge in the statement that speaks to how sometimes the people someone trusts most also hurts them the most: "You were supposed to love him, you most trusted by him... then he couldn't love himself."
all the terrible things I do produces for the audience on multiple levels versions of society's "people labels:" gay, Filipino, émigre, parent, writer, artists, masculine, feminine, whatever Daniel and Linda might be discussing. These emotions translate to child and domestic abuse, racial slurs, gender slurs or prejudice, and any preconceptions believed about these labels, who people are by how they look or speak. Each person, human being, combines attributes regarding their femininity or masculinity, skin color, cultural heritage, family relationships, education and personal talents. Society, and then subsequently, individuals, attempt to catalogue and label them, often with disastrous results.
Pamatmat's play blows the print off the volumes of books in his Midwestern bookstore when he opens the covers to the true personalities and motives of Daniel and Linda as the evening unravels. The play bares humanity so the audience observes all the flaws, dreams and hopes filled with anxiety, when desperate to connect to another human being, to become valued and worthy in an individual's personal and communal life. How an individual accomplishes these "goals" often involves hurting someone else, intentionally or unintentionally, in varying degrees of horrendous behavior.
So the host of words for Pamatmat's incredible world premiere begins with "I" because after being enthralled by The Rep's production, the "I" will be challenged to accept responsibility for these and any actions towards another human being. the "I" in a family, at a workplace, and that "I" that coalesces into community. and discovers ways to connect to other human beings.
Go, listen, learn. With the incomparable assistance of Adrales, Junek, Skiles, conceive of confession, empathy, and understanding. Reconstruct society's status quo because as the play presents: "We all have pain, we all need forgiveness, we all do terrible things to each other." And to quote O'Hara, Daniel's poet of choice: "Forgiveness is not love, Love is love." Live and love.The Milwaukee Rep presents the World Premiere of "all the terrible things I do" at the Stiemke Studio in the Patty and Jay Baker Theatre Complex through November 9. For additional information and tickets, please call: 414.224.9490 or www.MilwaukeeRep.com.