How far are we willing to go to seek happiness? That’s the intriguing premise of Jona Tarlin’s Lost Teeth, a world premiere production from New York City’s Blowout Theatre Company which has a promising start but ultimately fails to satisfy.
Tori (Marlowe Holden) is an aspiring artist who is working as a dental receptionist to pay the bills. She dresses in black and is prone to being perpetually glum. As she puts it, “I was a bummed out preschooler.”
The well-meaning Dr. Eben Appell (Johnathan Randell Silver) urges Tori to smile and work on being happy. He’s even willing to buy one of her paintings sight unseen for the office to help, but nothing seems to work.
When Nora, the senior receptionist (Kerry Kastin), returns after a horrible random mugging at a supermarket, she bears both marked bruises and a marked change in demeanor. It seems being hit in the skull with a hammer has helped change her attitude for the better. While Nora once was more of a fashion and personal twin to Tori, she’s now happier, eager to wear bright pastels, and more appreciative of her job, her husband Jared, and her infant son Scotty.
Lost Teeth begins in a promising manner. Marlowe Holden is a talented and charismatic actress. Some of her best scenes come early when she rehearses different fake smiles or various cheery phone answering techniques.
closes July 15, 2017
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Yet ultimately Tori’s character is given little to do but be glum until making a decision to engage in a radical treatment. Even given her friendship with Nora, it seems odd that Tori would leapfrog other less radical potential therapeutic approaches (like pharmacology or electro-convulsive therapy) for her depression.
There are aspects of Lost Teeth to enjoy. Playwright Jona Tarlin is skilled at writing dialogue and both lead actresses are talented performers. Yet after the initial set up, director Kristan Seemel can’t find a way to keep the pace of the story from lagging.
In addition, the friendship of Tori and Nora does not come across as credibly strong. Tori has never met Nora’s husband and son, nor has Nora ever seen any of Tori’s artwork. It is hard to imagine the prior friendship of the two women when they had similar attitudes and black wardrobes.
A screenwriting student might summarize the larger fault of Lost Teeth as “too much second act, not enough third act”). While a story does not have to reveal the complete afterlife of the characters, Lost Teeth leaves the audience unsatisfied. The playwright seems to be more enamored with Tori’s ultimate decision than in a more complete narrative.
This production left the reviewer with an odd contradictory feeling of wanting to see future work by both playwright Jona Tarlin and the Blowout Theatre Company, but feeling unable to highly recommend this particular play. Lost Teeth has a shiny enamel, but perhaps needs a root canal before future productions.