Blood from a Stone

  • Date:
    January 1, 2011

    Review by Tulis McCall
    (14 Jan 2010)

    Watching the production is like watching a child take the ends of two magnets having the same charge try to force them together. When she pairs positive to negative, the ends cling. When she reverses one of the magnets they repel one another. This does not sit well with the child who tries again and again to force the ends together and each time expects different results.

    Repeating the same action over and over again expecting different results is also a definition of insanity.

    Granted, most of the characters in this tale are borderline, but the telling itself lacks logic of any kind. That's because nothing happens until the last 5 minutes of the play. So for the better part of three hours what we are given is a laundry list of incidences, none of which appear to intersect with one another, with the hope that a story line will magically appear. It doesn’t.

    Travis (Ethan Hawke) has returned to his parents’ home to bid farewell. He is about to leave on a cross-country trip out west to start over. Why specifically? What was the incident that caused his decision? I couldn't say.

    His parents Margaret (Ann Dowd) and Bill (Gordon Clapp) hate each other to the tune of the most frequently used words in their lexicon are “fuck” and “asshole”. Why do they hate each other? I couldn’t say. Why do they stay together? Ditto.

    Matt, (Thomas Guiry) Travis's brother, is leaving his wife and two sons for another woman who is married with four children and a husband. Why? Right….

    Living next door to the family manse is Yvett (Daphne Rubin-Vega) who is Travis's first and true love. She is now married with two children, but this does not stop her from sneaking over to have a role on the couch with Travis between his parents' work shifts. Why does she do this? I couldn’t say.

    At the center of everything is our boy Travis, who is the hub. Without him, no one is connected to anyone else. He is the conduit. Okay. Got that!

    But we need a little bit more than the facts, which is all this play is. This happens and then that happens and then something else happens and then another thing happens. It is literally numbing while we wait and wait and wait for an incident that will cause events to rocket off in a direction. Any direction would be okay.

    But, as I said, nothing does happen until the last minutes of the play. Travis’s decision about his life is enormous, and it should have been the end of the first act that would bring us back into the theatre asking, “What will happen now?”

    As it is, Blood from a Stone, starts way too early in the story line, goes on way too long, and ends too early. Not too early for us who are in the theatre, but too early to do justice to what this author has set out to do in his first play.

    As usual – the actors do the best they can. Hawke is enormously compelling and has sniffed out every molecule of humor he can find. But for the most part the actors are simply not strong enough to withstand the great weight of this text.

    How this script got picked for production is a mystery. New writers need to be given a chance, and New Group’s commitment is to be applauded. But to mount a play that is so lacking in the simple technical requirement of what makes a story seems almost cavalier. In the end, there is no benefit, and lacking that the theatre is without its life force.

    (Tulis McCall)