Brandon O’Donnell is dead and he’s left a hot mess in his wake. His family, grief-stricken, struggles through mourning in unhealthy ways, causing a truth to come to light that conceals fresh secrets. Secrets that will, inevitably, cause a dangerous repeat of the past.
Sarah O’Donnell (Amee Walden) is adjusting to widowhood, worrying over her two sons—Aaron (Alexander Gheesling), a college graduate studying for the GRE, and Justy (Anthony Papastrat), a high schooler interested only in liquor and girls—and trying to keep her alcoholic half-brother, Ezra (Brian Shell), in line. It’s not as easy as she makes it look but she survives by leaning on her best friend Shelly (Ciaran Farley), whose younger sister Dorothy (Jennifer Berry) once dated Ezra.
But one day Shelly spies Dorothy buying a pregnancy test. Fearing that Ezra—who can barely form a sentence or stand upright most days—could be the father, Shelly lights into Sarah and her boys, creating rifts that ripple through the close-knit family/friend clan.
Justy turns to his classmate Sam (Miranda Robbins), a new girl with opaque motives, for comfort while Dorothy looks to Ezra as Sarah leans on Aaron, who becomes more and more alienated from his family.
Interconnected is packed with that wonderful type of melodrama—you know the heavy, you can’t-avert-your-eyes, car wreck Lifetime movie material—but it also causes whiplash.
No scene (of which there are probably 50) is longer than 60 seconds. These constant changes feel excessive to the point of irresponsible, especially when many seem to not advance the story so much as substitute for dialogue. In this case, showing does not outrank telling.
Especially when the dialogue that does occur is close to perfect. Writers (and directors) Brian Schwartz and Karen Snyder have a good ear for how people speak. I would have liked to have seen conversations deepen based on this alone.
Not only that, but each scene change involves the shifting of 2-3 chairs and a table. They move twenty feet to the right. Sixty seconds later, they move back twenty feet to the left. And again. All to represent different (but similar) places (three different characters’ living rooms). The constant moving is more disruptive than beneficial to the flow of the show. I question the directors’ ability to use space creatively.
Those short scenes rob the actors of the chance to dive headlong into the depth of the drama unfolding – a drama that is compelling and rich, albeit predictable at most turns.
Each character is treading a unique ennui that feels woefully underexplored. They are often funny, but that humor isn’t allowed to blossom either. It could really go the distance should it dare to rest on any one character or conversation for more than a minute.
Written and directed by Brian Schwartz and Karen Snyder
Details and tickets
All that aside, the actors do their best to create full-bodied characters mired in mess. A mess that involves baby daddy drama galore and, quite possibly, a wee bit of incest.
Sue Schaffel as Ginger Lewis—Sam’s mom and a blue-collar waitress at the local diner—is underused as a voice of sanity despite her shady past with the family O’Donnell, and Amee Walden as the matriarch carries the burden of death well as the shakey widow always one step away from a good cry. Brian Shell brings the humor as Ezra. He’s both likeable and repulsive, as when he is vomiting or leaning on a pregnant Dorothy because he can’t walk.
Alexander Gheesling’s Aaron is the glue of the show—holding much of the drama on his shoulders with weighty angst. He does, after all, know his father’s dark secret and Dorothy’s. And he loves his mother, Ezra, and Justy. He betrays none of them, despite the toll it takes on him mentally.
Interconnected has an interesting premise. With judicious cuts, it could be great.