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I Could Say More

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

I Could Say More
Keith McDermott, Chuck Blasius, and Grant James Varjas.
Photo by Ahron Foster.
Neither the title of Chuck Blasius's new play at the Hudson Guild Theatre, I Could Say More, nor its contents infers the concept of any vital information being withheld. Far from it. Both times the line is uttered during the play, it's by Skip, a 60-something actor who's dispensing plenty of obvious wisdom the intended party would prefer not hear. In other words, he's not actually saying, "I know more than I'm telling," but rather, "Don't make me make the pain you're feeling worse."

If only Blasius had listened to his own character. I Could Say More is jammed to exploding with TMI ("too much information," just in case) and plenty of thoughts, feelings, and experiences that no one dares leave unspoken. By the end of the first act, you will know everything there is to know about Carl (Blasius), his husband Drew (Brett Douglas), Drew's brother Phil (Grant James Varjas), Phil's boyfriend Dyson (Frank Delessio), Skip and his wife Rakel (Keith McDermott and Monique Vukovic), and family friend Lila and her boyfriend Joe (Kate Hodge and Robert Gomes) as they all convene in a rented Long Island beach house one recent summer. And by the second act, you'll be exposed to more secrets still.

Subtlety is not Blasius's strong suit, and though this lacerating openness ensures that as the playwright he has plenty to work with, it hardly guarantees an exciting or even watchable play. Each character's willingness, or perhaps more appropriately compulsion, to reveal all possible peccadilloes, idiosyncrasies, and passions means there's nothing for us to discover over the nearly two-and-a-half-hour running time. And that makes sitting in the audience a passive and frequently numbing endeavor.

It's not necessarily vital, for example, that every intimate detail of Carl and Drew's marriage is explained, or that a critical character boasts a deep love for Phil that doesn't seem to inform any of his words or actions until doing so would be dramatically expedient. Nor does the redneck homophobe Phil (who, speaking of Drew and Phil's parents, muses that they "struck out twice") need to outline each of hatreds in such exacting detail. And Rakel, who's currently fighting (and apparently losing to) cancer, suppresses no feelings about the loss of her breasts ("Imagine having two giant water balloons tied to your chest," she begins one diatribe). Even such mundane topics as what to eat for dinner are discussed endlessly and restlessly, as though only empty words can fill the silences in these people's lives.

Though that's one possible interpretation of all this, I'd argue a better one is that you ought to appreciate what you have while you have it, because you never know when it might vanish. Even so, if Carl's tragedy is that he doesn't follow this advice (something that catches up with him at the end of Act II), none of the characters who are living life to the fullest paint an appetizing picture of its benefits. There are at least four cases of marital infidelity chronicled, a couple of drug use, more still of illicit sex, even some theft there are no positive takeaways here. And because it's impossible for only a single character to throw a drunken tantrum at 4:00 AM, you don't even get one focused, cohesive moment of searing payback. Everything is mush.

There are few credible performances here; Delessio finds an appropriate mischievous energy for Dyson, and Hodge and Gomes have moments of emotional lucidity as Lila and Joe, but that's it. The biggest problem seems to be that Blasius is stretched too thin: Also the play's director, he embraces every idea and insists on gallons of meaning poured into every line, which doesn't take long to become tedious, and his staging (on Clifton Chadick's clumsy bungalow set) is cluttered at best. He also gives the least convincing portrayal, failing to plumb Carl for enough of the regret that fuels him and spoiling the big moments that are supposed to be the play's lynchpin scenes.

The writing only really comes together when focusing on Carl and Drew's 15-year-old son, Jason, who's played with a strained diffidence by Brandon Smalls. You sense that Jason is struggling to be well adjusted among an extended family of people who are anything but, and his few but impactful lines suggest a latent but unrequited curiosity that makes him by far the most interesting figure onstage he wants to talk, to contribute, but has discovered over the course of his lifetime that he's better off keeping his mouth shut. I Could Say More might be a better play if anyone else associated with it had managed to learn that same lesson.


I Could Say More
Through February 1
Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 West 26th Street between 9th and 10th - accessible from the E train at 23rd Street
Tickets and performance schedule at OvationTix