by Amber Gallery · August 22, 2014
Sometimes there is so much potential and positive reaction to a play that we are inspired to take it further, maybe write a sequel. Or a one-act play presents such fascinating characters and situations, it begs to be lengthened and enriched. I was excited to see With a Shrug, which started as a one act at the Midwinter Madness Festival and has been reworked and workshopped and lengthened to its current state of full-length. And while there is promise here, this is a play that needs a little more time on its journey.
We open on a messy room in the house of a recently deceased old man. Overturned sofa, clothing and boxes askew, and a young man named Chris rummaging though the debris. He is interrupted by the long estranged, middle-aged daughter of the old man. It is revealed that the young man was very close with the old man and spent almost every day with him (he lives down the street) and he is looking for a gun that he let the man borrow. (I have no problem revealing this because the promotional photo for the play is a picture of a gun. While the reveal is early, it may have been more effective if it were not as expected.) Both characters are in dark places and grieving and through friendship and mutual understanding along with love of the old man, they are able to renew each other’s faith in life.
Director Robert Haufrecht’s great choice of music and careful staging were promising, but the entire production fell a little flat. Devin Doyle was a standout in his skilled and intelligent portrayal of Chris, a young man with possibly (and I am guessing here as it is never revealed) a mild case of Asperger Syndrome.
Nicholas Priore obviously wrote this from a personal and heartfelt place and his skill as a writer is apparent. But the script could use some trimming – there is repetition of things that need not be said more than once, and there are too-obvious statements uttered that should not be voiced. There are also some very large and somewhat unrealistic shifts between moments - like characters holding guns on each other and then flirting in almost the next breath. But at its core it is a lovely and hopeful story of an unlikely friendship that blooms out of a tragic occurrence and a shared love and respect.
The opportunities to add some true to life ironic comedy to a rather serious story were definitely provided by Priore in the writing, but these moments were unfortunately a little lost to Haufrecht and his actors.
I hope Priore will continue to workshop this play. It has a fascinating core character in Chris, and a lot of heart. I’d like to see this play continue to grow and to see it in a few more able hands as it gains momentum.