The City Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Jeffrey Hatcher's play, Mercy of a Storm. Hatcher's Compleat Female Stage Beauty was also presented at the City and is being adapted as a film with a 2003 release date. He is currently working on a stage adaptation of Mitch Albom's bestseller Tuesdays with Morrie.
Mercy of a Storm is a two character play which takes place during the last two hours of December 31, 1945, in a country club pool house which has been converted into an apartment. It is played out in real time (including the intermission), with a grandfather clock on stage ticking off the minutes and chiming the quarter hour.
George and Zanovia, married less than a year and now technically separated, have escaped the New Year's Eve crowd in the club's main building to meet, rehash their history, and resolve their conflicts one way or another. As a teen, Zanovia was a friend of George's daughter; her mother was a member of George's household staff. Zanovia had her sights set on George and eventually, after his wife's death, married him. Though they still live in the same house, the marriage appears to be over, and the pair now confronts each other about previously unspoken feelings, suspicions, and intentions. It is a simple but interesting (and often witty) story about two people from different sides of the tracks deciding whether or not to end their marriage. There are a few twists in the plot, but not of the level to keep audience members on the edges of their seats.
Hopefully, some refining will be done to make the piece totally cohesive (there are several plot points that seem in place to go somewhere, but don't), but the potential for a compelling play is there. Jeffrey Hatcher has created an opportunity for two good actors to make an audience care about the reasons George and Zanovia got together and be interested in whether or not they stay together. In this production, the opportunity is only 50% realized.
Chandler Vinton is wonderfully cast as Zanovia, offering a bravado which cannot hide her childlike qualities. She's worldly and experienced, yet needy and vulnerable. When Zanovia is speaking, this play comes alive and is fully a three dimensional work. When the attention is on George, the play stops dead. Frank Converse takes his character nowhere. George's motives supposedly change greatly from act one to act two, but Converse gives no hint of this with his odd machine gun blast delivery of dialogue and blank looks. Converse is best known for his TV work, but he has done a fair amount of stage work as well, on Broadway and regionally. However, he contributes little to this production and threatens to negate what life Vinton is able to pump into the show through her dynamic performance. With two strong and interesting performances, this could be a rich, fascinating play. As played at the City, it's an uneven, frustrating evening of theatre.
Tony Ferrieri has created a perfect set that evokes the period, the season, and the setting extremely well. Lorraine Venberg's costumes serve just as nicely.
Jeffrey Hatcher's poignant story has not been given a full chance to thrive on stage. Hopefully a future production will provide a George who is up to the standard set by Chandler Vinton's Zanovia.
Mercy of a Storm has been commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville and City Theatre as part of their New Works On Stage program and runs through May 5. For more information call the box office at (412)431-CITY or visit www.citytheatrecompany.org.
The City's next production is another new work, Adam Rapp's Blackbird.