Review by Tulis McCall
(11 Jun 2010)
Well this is a nifty piece of footwork. Over at the Cherry Lane another little gem is sprouting.
Did I say perfect? No I did not.
Dreams Of A Washer King is the story of people who live far away from wherever it is you are right now. They don't have computers. They barely have electricity. What they do have is a lot of quiet and a ridge for gazing at when the sun comes up. The quiet is not always the healthy kind, and the ridge would just as soon kill you as not.
Ryan (Ben Hollandsworth) is a teenager living with his mother Claire (Carla Harting). When his father was alive they all moved to the country because of his dreams of a simpler life. When he died in an accident on the ridge, Claire was too out of steam to even think of picking up and leaving.
Into their lives come Wade (Stevie Ray Dallimore) and his teenage daughter Elsie (Reyna de Courcy) who are running from his past and their shared secret. Not happy campers, these two. So the lonely adults get together and the lonely teenagers get together, and everything should end up happily ever after – but it don't work that way in them parts of the country.
Christopher Wall's writing is filled with twists and turns – reminding me a little of John Patrick Shanley. His writing is especially fluid and engaging when he is putting words into the mouths of his teenagers. Wall is also aided by these two very fine performers. The scenes between Hollandsworth and de Courcy are quite fine. These are teenagers with life experience that is larger than their years but who still talk like kids. As Ryan and Elsie become friends, the layers of their personal lives are peeled away bit by bit. They are vulnerable and vital at the same time.
Wall fares less well when writing for the two adults. This could be because he gets caught up in a plot line that goes light years beyond where it needs to go. There is a little reality, a little surrealism, a little mystery, a little flashback, a little paranormal, a little violence, a little romance, plus a few irrelevant washing machines thrown in for good measure (on a set that defies logic) – just a little too much of little bits. It reminds me of the way I used to cook when I was starting out on my own. I put everything in the pot with the result that whatever I cooked came out tasting like nothing. While the teenagers remain clear throughout, the adults get – you should pardon the expressing – lost in the wash.
The Playwrights Realm, producer of this play, is devoted to the care and feeding of new playwrights. Like the Cherry Lane, this company is one of the many spots in this city where theatre is being born every day. In Dreams of the Washer King they have given us a play that is not perfect but is the promise of things to come. It is, like the two most excellent characters Ryan and Elsie, young, full of itself and worth a listen.