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The Pavilion

Penfold Theatre offers an example of a great production built on an almost-great script

Reviewed by Elizabeth Cobbe, Fri., May 11, 2012

Love's labors lost?: Nancy Eyermann and Zach Thompson
Love's labors lost?: Nancy Eyermann and Zach Thompson
Photo courtesy of Kimberley Mead

The Pavilion

Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd
www.penfoldtheatre.org
Through May 13
Running time: 2 hr.

High school reunions will always be a source for drama, no matter whether it's the fifth, the 10th, or the 50th. Expectations combine with hope and lead to almost inevitable disappointment – at least, that's the take of most people, including playwright Craig Wright, whose play The Pavilion receives production from Penfold Theatre Company under the direction of Producing Artistic Director Ryan Crowder.

At the center of the play are Peter and Kari, who were voted the cutest couple of their senior year. However, events took a terrible turn when each person's lack of experience and maturity led to decisions they have continued to regret ever since. At their 20th reunion, the two see each other for the first time since high school and dig through the past in the shadow of the town pavilion: a place burdened with memory, scheduled to be demolished in fire at the end of the night.

Penfold's previous shows have shown the company's knack for casting the right people in the right roles, and The Pavilion is no different. Nancy Eyermann and Zach Thompson are well paired as Kari and Peter. As the Narrator and as all of Kari and Peter's classmates, Kim Adams shows herself to be one of Austin's best character actors. She creates memorable personalities who wander in and out the way people who have known each other for more than two decades tend to do at parties: with hope for finding something new, with disappointment that history hasn't changed. All three actors turn in strong performances, aided by a set design from David Utley that makes the often-challenging space at Hyde Park Theatre work for them.

The show is also an example of a great production built on an almost-great script. Wright has the tendency to let characters speak like playwrights: people who have the questionable luxury of brooding over their feelings and experiences for as long as it takes to render them in fully articulate monologues. Sometimes this fits, but at other times it strains the limits of credibility. Could Kari, who has been working in the basement of a bank for the last 20 years and growing numb in a loveless marriage, really pull off such a passionately articulate description of her situation? Perhaps, but would she also do so in the same voice as Peter? Given that the script has received some notable awards, this observation may be subjective, so I'll leave it to audiences to judge if the script has the power to deliver new understandings of forgiveness and love.

The Pavilion is a deceptively simple play that strives to reach for powerful, universal themes. Penfold's production provides a nice show and a great showcase for three strong actors.

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