Bad news should be given straight up, and immediately, and so I shall. Steve LaRocque, a fine actor, competent director and very decent guy, has here written a Sominex™ tablet of a play, so dull and tedious that he has managed to turn Monday evening, for the audience, into a week of Mondays.
The story line is reasonably straightforward and the play, if stripped of all its irrelevant frou-frou, could probably be done in twenty minutes. The United States Army has accepted Teresa (Lisa Hawkins) into its first female Officer Candidate School class. Her father (Ted Schneider) doesn’t want her to go – principally, it seems, because the household needs her $55 per month income. Dad and daughter clash. Her optimism and idealism engages against the disillusionment his experience in the first World War brought him, but he does not play his trump card – news that he might be suffering from a serious medical condition. You can guess how it ends up.
But twenty-minute plays rarely satisfy paying audiences, and so Larocque stuffs it full of repetitive or irrelevant dialogue and events, and non sequiturs. We begin with Teresa and Aunt Ivy (Susan Holiday), a character who appears to exist for the sole purpose of giving daughter and dad someone to talk to when they are not talking with each other, reviewing the play’s givens: Teresa will go to visit Aunt Livinia and Uncle Pat in Chicago tomorrow, and thereafter travel to Dubuque, Iowa to enter OCS. Of course, Teresa and Ivy are well aware of these facts and have no reason to discuss them except for the edification of the audience. Dad, astonishingly, seems not to know of his daughter’s plans, notwithstanding that she told him about them half a dozen times.
Thereafter, we are presented with the a series of mind-numbingly detailed discussions involving the maintenance of sewing machinery, the 1942 National-American League All-Star baseball game, textiles used for army uniforms, some baseball game in 1912 or 1902 or sometime which Ivy did not attend and dad’s murkily-described illness. In the show I watched, the actors butchered some lines about the compensation dad received for handling insecticide, but it did not interrupt the flow – showing how little the issue mattered.
These maddeningly pointless details are made worse by dialogue which is familiar and occasionally senseless. “Women and their sizes!” says Ivy, in a particularly egregious example of dialogue which makes you say huh? And although the breadth of LaRocque’s research is impressive, there are plot points that are still confusing – such as the fact that Teresa has planned her induction trip for weeks although she has not known that she was accepted into the program until three days ago.
The agreeable if somewhat underprepared cast cannot do much to redeem this unfortunate stuff, although Holiday labors heroically in a particularly thankless role. Jack Sbarboni puts an authentic-looking set together, though, and David Stiegerwald’s old-time sound is cool.
The late, great Gary Prevost once said “Writing isn’t life – it’s life’s greatest hits.” Here’s hoping that in his next play, Mr. LaRocque finds the center of his story, jettisons the boring side stuff, and moves us within an inch of our lives.
Monday Evening 1942
Written and directed by Steve LaRocque
Produced by Quotidian Theatre Company
Reviewed by Tim Treanor
For Details, Directions and Tickets, click here.