There are moments of such comic poignancy in The Mike and Morgan Show that you just know that playwright Raphael Bob-Waksberg has that little matter of dialogue down pat – even when the lines overlap, drown, stall, and leap out at the audience in a rush of words. "I would have kicked a dog for you," grieves a character, "and you know how much I love dogs."
The Mike and Morgan Show, a one-act, two-actor play at the Great SCoT theatre showcase for new plays at the Access Theatre, is the retelling and re-imagining of a disastrous last night of summer. The "what might have been" is a familiar device in a memory play, but The Mike and Morgan Show brings fresh ideas to the motif with a bending of linear storyline. The action stops, reverses, backs up onto itself, straightens itself out. Just like a real memory.
The stage is spare – lamps strewn around the floor as metaphor for recollections that spring to mind unbidden, unwanted. The tomboy Morgan, well-acted with overflowing energy by Emma Galvin, vies for the attention of Mike on his last night at home before going off to college. Mike is all ambivalence. They each tell the audience their version of the story.
Brian Miskell's flat delivery as Mike is disconcerting at first. Early in the evening, he exclaims: "Don't turn around!" with not quite the alarm you would think the line deserves. As his story unfolds, however, you realize that the dispirited recitation of the events of that night are an indication of a depression to come. On that night, plans are tentatively made for a future that will not and cannot come to pass.
The actors are enthusiastic, but problems arise in the action of the play. The plot device of an unexpected pregnancy seemed an extraneous layer of drama where there was drama enough: the consequences of reckless adolescence, the path not taken, the chasms of gender and class. Gimmicky scene changes remind one of acting classes. Sound effects, such as an actor verbalizing the sound of a car door, are distracting.
What is most successful is the self-examination of the play-writing process. The character Mike is the high school graduate, and, at the same time, the playwright who will be later compelled to write a drama about this tragedy. It is significant that the lake where the kids hang is called Paper Lake. Characters on a page, young adults in dangerous waters.
Regret being the major theme of the evening, a character reminds the audience that "in the heat of the summer, it is hard to ever imagine being cold. After lunch, you can't imagine being hungry." It is hard to imagine the regret you will feel after future turning points. Mr. Bob-Waksberg confronts that gap in the imagination.
The playwright addresses misgivings and misplaced memories – it didn't happen quite like that. He examines the writing process and its motivations – "I didn't ask to be your muse," Morgan tells Mike, speaking for all characters of semi-autobiographical writings.
The Mike and Morgan Show, directed by Lacey Post, closes today, January 31. It is playing in rotation with You May Be Splendid Now, directed by the multifaceted Ms. Galvin, and The Luck of the Ibis. All are Shelby Company productions at the Access Theatre. The Mike an Morgan Show is a presentation of the Onion and AV Club.