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Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

Harbor
Westport Country Playhouse

Also see Fred's review of Tryst

Harbor
Alexis Molnar and Kate Nowlin
Harbor, making its world premiere at Westport Country Playhouse, boasts inventive comedy, including a number of one-liners, as it explores relationship possibilities among four individuals which could not possibly be anticipated. The man most responsible for this impressive show is Chad Beguelin who, given his musical dexterity, has twice been nominated for Tony Awards. This is his first "straight" play and, benefitting from Mark Lamos' expertise as director, the resultant production has plenty of zip. Finally, it is also a thoughtful play which runs at WCP through September 15th.

Front and center throughout is audacious Donna (Kate Nowlin) who, with her adolescent daughter Lottie (Alexis Molnar), drives to Sag Harbor, New York, and the home her brother Kevin (Bobby Steggert) shares with his partner Ted (Paul Anthony Stewart.). Donna (call her audacious) speaks her mind—always. Now, she calls, by phone, from a few blocks away, announces her proximity and more or less homeless predicament; and Kevin comes through by inviting mother and daughter to board for a while.

Andrew Jackness's scenic design is atypical. The exterior of a home, complete with many shingles, serves as backdrop to easy interior furnishings placed in front of the house. While the comfy looking chairs typically belong inside, they are now facing toward the audience. This is an intriguing, different choice.

Donna is pregnant and not exactly thrilled with her situation. What of the baby who will be born in a number of months? Beguelin spins his plot around this central question and this seems a natural dramatic hook inserted well into the proceedings. Ted, for one, does not particularly care for those who are, say, two years of age and under. Kevin is not nearly so oppositional, while Lottie is disbelieving. She, however, desperately wishes to speak with her birth father. Donna, now the advisory mother, suggests that this course of action probably is unwise. But, Lottie makes a call and reaches dad.

Ted takes a liking to Lottie and the two enjoy eating fast food while talking up a storm at a local mall eatery. Donna, realizing that she is still a visitor, wants to be certain she can find a place to live. Whether Kevin (a wannabe novelist) has any talent is anyone's guess.

Beguelin alternates between wryly comic dialogue and the belly laugh variety. All the while, he neatly plots this play. It is not farce. Rather, the circumstances bring together people who are quite connected to one another. A couple of hours later, the configurations have evolved. Just before intermission, Ted says, "Maybe deep down we're all a bunch of teenage girls." It is said in context but has its own intrinsic value.

The playwright offers resolution at the final curtain for two of the four characters but it would be unfair to divulge the ending on this page. This is not a mystery but it is carefully composed and leaves room for the theatergoer to draw conclusions.

Lamos and Beguelin came together for a workshop of Harbor at WCP earlier this year. As he watched his play and was able to make observations and receive commentary, the playwright was given time to revisit, revise and, when necessary, reword. Lamos, in his introductory notes, calls this play "surprising." That it is. The script benefits from the author's ability to write with versatility; hence, it is not a comedy which fits easily into a category within that genre. Ultimately, Harbor and its creator speak with sensitivity of contemporary life and times.

The production features four disciplined and energized actors all of whom are highly credentialed. Alexis Molnar's bio describes her, first, as a high school senior.

Harbor continues at Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Connecticut through September 15th. For ticket information, call (203) 227-4177 or visit www.westportplayhouse.org.


Photo: T. Charles Erickson


Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol



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