THEATRE REVIEW: Emergent Ensemble’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ holds familiarity inside its literate wallsMore Info
You Are Not Alone
Written and directed by Patrick Toole
“… no opinion on fracking anything!”
Patrick Toole’s new play “You Are Not Alone” is about everyone we know: people with troubled relationships of all kinds; people with social issues; people with addiction problems; people who cannot help without destroying something; people who cannot connect with other people; people who suffer but do not reveal their pain; and people who find happiness troublesome. Everyone who sees this play will find someone familiar inside its literate walls. It may be a neighbor or a friend, a co-worker or a parent; a child or a personality adjustor, professional or not. The play is both humorous and tragic, sometimes both at the same time. It is peopled with the talented folk who often enlighten us in other theater companies. For a new play (this is a world-premiere production), it is evidence of a talent emerging, a writer with an eye and ear for the often ignored or overlooked individuals who don’t please an audience because they (we) already know some of this story, some of these people.
At the center of the play are two people whose commonalities include addictions to alcohol and drugs. Handsome people, attractive and compelling, they are wrong for one another, each of them riddled with addictions that complement the other, bringing them full circle from and to and from again their desperate needs. George, in his early 30s, is played by Gregory Boover. Sydney, a bit younger, is played by Maizy Broderick Scarpa. They are well-matched. He is infused with bathos; she compellingly refutes pathos. Individually they are in pain whether apart or together. Allied they are not good for each other—though they both find love and fulfillment for a time, but it is not an extended time. The play covers a period of about 18 months, though it reaches into the past from time to time. These two actors, the only ones who portray only a single character, blend together and are torn apart with a naturalness that seems to be reality revealed to an unseen audience (though the house was just about full on opening night).
Scarpa’s delicacy is sweet in comparison to Boover’s tougher exterior. He jerks from one aspect of personality to another while she flows within the personality alterations her role demands. They are a terrific pairing. Ultimately, her emotional stuntedness takes its toll on their relationship. Finally, his emotional struggles emerge into the light of reality. I could watch their scenes over and over and never tire of them.
Everyone in this talented cast has their moment. Sally McCarthy as Carla rips your heart out with her song that ends the first act, and then she repeats that triumph in her scene with Scarpa, playing her mother. After the sweetness between them, Mom cannot help but ruin things with her revelation of guilt that Sydney cannot hear without consequences. The moment had me in tears.
Glenn Barrett as Carla’s outcast husband is as good as he has ever been. He plays a brilliant madman whose love for his equally outcast wife is touching and so inherently human it gives you chills. His final monologue is gorgeous writing played with illumination and depth.
Brittany Nicholson gives her characters ideal focus—sometimes funny, sometimes basically tragic but edgy. Ashley Yang-Thompson plays the outcast, the estranged girl, very well. Adam Boshe, the only actor in this ensemble I had difficulty hearing, played the most alienated character—Jonathan—and the most involved uptight executive assistant, both extremely well. Patrick Toole brought an intense reality to the role of Jesse, Boover’s sponsor in the recovery program. It felt like something Toole knew and understood.
The two finest performances beyond all of the above were given by McCarthy and Christopher Brophy. She, as noted above, broke our hearts twice. He broke our spirits with his Cop, his Doctor, his Detox Man and an inmate at the rehab facility. His characters were beautifully defined and, in the final scene of the play, his CEO/Developer was a force reckoning with a persistent reality as he confronts one more addict on his property. The subtle change in his character’s attitude from an earlier scene was perfectly rendered.
Toole and his company take the stage and hold it for a long time and our interest never wanes, which, in an hour-and-20-minute first act, is a wonderful thing. With an intermission, the play runs two and a half hours. Toole, the director, has excellent help in his production from the costumes designed by Lezlie Lee, music supplied by Cathy Schane-Lydon and Roger Suters, lighting designed by Brad Steele, and dance choreography created by Anna Masiero.
This is a wonderful journey to a happy and simultaneously unhappy ending. I fully recommend this company and this fine new play.
You Are Not Alone runs through Saturday, April 6, at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting of Southern Berkshire, 1089 Main St., Housatonic, Massachusetts. For reservations, see the Berkshire Edge calendar, call (413) 213-2424 or go online to www.facebook.com/emergentensemble.