Something Someone Someplace Else

Local Arts Reviews

Exhibitionism

Something Someone Someplace Else

And You May Ask Yourself --

Hyde Park Theatre, through April 19

Running Time: 1 hr, 35 min

The two sisters perch on the end of the small bed in the small apartment in the big, big city, both staring ahead in silence, the same shell-shocked expression on their faces. It's the stupefied look of someone suddenly finding herself in a place she never expected, in a life she never expected to live. The pair could be poster children for the Talking Heads song "Once in a Lifetime," both waking to the idea that they've been letting the days go by, letting the water hold them down, and are asking themselves, "How do I work this?"

Like so many characters in American drama, these women in Ann Marie Healey's Something Someone Someplace Else are trying to measure the distance between the life they have and the life they want -- in particular here, that life they dreamed for themselves when they were young and could still smell freedom in the wind. For Ronny, the elder of the two, that distance turns out to be the length from her home in Minneapolis to her sister's teensy flat in New York City. On a visit there, the dutiful but deeply unfulfilled Ronny, who bursts into tears about as often as cab drivers change lanes and who has justified her misery as a kind of perverse gift from the Almighty, encounters a genial Texan on the roof of the building where her sister lives. Feelings of mutual attraction cause her Midwestern propriety and piety to give way and send this married adult cartwheeling back into adolescence; she buys a diary and loads it with moonstruck messages about Her Secret Crush, along with a few petulant complaints about God, who has sent her this dream lover she can't have, thereby filling the role of the parent out to ruin her life.

Ronny discovers, along with her sister Jeanine and most of the characters here, that life has become a sort of reflex, an automatic response to stimuli involving no thought to speak of -- like the "I'm fine" that you blurt out whenever you're asked "How are you?" even when you feel like something scraped off a shoe. For some reason, in this apartment so tiny that it makes a Mervyn's changing room look spacious, they begin to catch on to their knee-jerk way of moving through the world, and part of the pleasure in Healey's script, especially as realized by Hyde Park Theatre's world-premiere production, is the way the characters catch themselves after a reflexive reaction: On recognizing that what they said has no relationship to reality, there's this wordless flash of awareness, seasoned with perplexity and perhaps lightly salted with embarrassment. The comic play of emotions is consistently delightful.

Director Ken Webster has a penchant for this kind of material -- indeed, he's all but carved a niche for his company with this kind of play: the offbeat comedy composed of really short scenes that end with a punch. He and his always-expert actors consistently mine the humor and feeling from the lines, but of late they seem to be drawing even more emotion from the spaces between the lines: the reactions, the glances, the gaps in speech. These moments have grown into something like the pauses in Pinter, but with uncertainty or vulnerability in place of menace.

You can see it here after Katherine Catmull's Ronny mentions her diary to David Jones' laconic B.G. -- this guy is easy in a pair of boots -- and then sips a beer: Her furtive glance toward him and flash of a smile reveal the thrill she feels at spilling a secret. And you can see it after Jones finishes singing Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman to Me" to her, his sober, downcast glance showing just how rare and heartfelt a thing he's shared; and when Ronny sings the same song to her husband, and Ken Bradley's furrowed brow and confounded gaze exposes a man struggling to comprehend what his wife is saying to him even as he suspects he'll never get it; and as Lee Eddy's Jeanine and Brent Werzner's Anthony trade guitars and, oh yes, intensely personal songs, and their pinched faces betray the desire of young people to hear music that pierces the veil of mystery in the universe -- and the way that, even if all they hear is strumming and mumbled words, they convince themselves they do; and of course, it's in those shell-shocked expressions worn by Catmull and Eddy at the start of the play.

These openings between words, handled with such care and humor and craft, open these characters up to us in eminently satisfying ways. And the longer we watch these characters trying to measure the distance between the lives they have and the lives they want, the less distance we find between them and us.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Something Someone Someplace Else, Ann Marie Healey, Hyde Park Theatre, Ken Webster, Katherine Catmull, David Jones, Ken Bradley, Lee Eddy, Brent Werzner

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