Review: THE PREMIERE PREMIERES at The Premiere Playhouse

Running through February 18th

By: Feb. 16, 2024
Review: THE PREMIERE PREMIERES at The Premiere Playhouse
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The Premiere Playhouse of Sioux Falls presents two new plays this weekend by local writers. COMFORTABLY SINGLE  by Leigh Spencer, and HEARING by Richard W. Swanson are the finalist pieces  that The Premiere Playhouse has produced to promote local theatrical art.  These plays crafted by local writers and performed by local artists are part of the educational mission of The Premiere Playhouse, and as such, are a welcome addition to the artistic fiber of our community.  

COMFORTABLY SINGLE is a comedy about the conventions of choices we make regarding our attachments to other people and the ways our life can be fulfilling with or without those conventions.  It was a script meant to entertain us with the absurdities of “coupling” in our society as somewhat of an obsession but it starts to feel cliche before it can even get off the ground.  There were some interesting choices in the characterizations of the various actors portraying  some very broad interpretations; and mostly quirky performances by players like David Boe and Kale Hellman and then some awkward directing for the two main characters in their reticence with being “set up.”  It looked more like a high school portrayal of two people trying to avoid physical contact. I don’t need to see two people struggling to keep their backs to each other in a dinner party scene to interpret the tension between their characters.  I think this play has some definite opportunities for editing with the points that are presented, and re-presented multiple times, I would guess that the general theatre audience could “get it” the first time around.  Matt Breems had a realistic portrayal of the gay best friend to Matt Stroud, played by Jim McLain. Mr. McLain had good vocal delivery, but an awkward physical presence on stage.  His movement on stage was so tentative, that it seemed like he really wasn’t comfortable with himself for some reason other than being “single”. 

I think the playwright is on the right track with her writing of the dialogue but the story needs to be tightened up to make it flow more smoothly.   The cast looked like they were having a lot of fun on stage and my favorite parts of this show were the musical choices used to keep the audience engaged during scene changes. 

The second show of the evening was the dramatization of a script called HEARING by Richard W. Swanson.  I was immediately drawn to the intellectual qualities of this script. It is "smart" writing and I like "smart" writing.  I enjoyed the performance of Caleb Ritchie as Chas with his easy and natural storytelling style, but was hoping for more varied emotional intensity as he stepped into the role in a dramatic portrayal of the character and his dilemma.  The father, portrayed by Erin Sharp, had emotional intensity on “high” for most of his portrayal as the father, and I was hoping that all that volatility would “go somewhere” or resolve in some way, but it seemed to just stew in each scene.   The characters of the draft board were mostly  relatable, and natural with the presentation of Alvin Olson, by David Bakke feeling the most authentic.  This is a play that educates and illustrates a time and place with some sensitivity and thought-provoking exposition and dialogue among the male characters.  Sadly, the female characters did not have the intellectual “voices” that moved the play forward, and that, I believe is a misstep by the playwright. They appear in the piece as peripheral characters, contributing little but  cliched vocalizations of  “there there”, or “not at my table” or “he’s not all that wrong”. If that was intentional, it makes the piece less palatable to a wider audience due to a perceived slight in gender characterization.    I believe this piece could have some legs in the theatrical world and encourage the playwright to consider some rewrites of the female characters.

Ultimately, these two plays will have appeal to local theater audiences in that there are aspects of relatable human behavior throughout each of them.


Tickets are available by phone at 605-367-6000 or online at https://thepremiereplayhouse.com/productions/the-premiere-premieres/




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