Things Being What They Are
Also see David's review of Hair
Though it uneasily mixes Odd Couplesque barbs and one-liners with some somber dramatic twists, Wendy MacLeod's new two-man show, Things Being What They Are, provides a fairly decent vehicle for the considerable acting talents of Seattle theatre stalwarts Jeff Steitzer and R. Hamilton Wright.
Steitzer portrays Jack, the loudmouth next door neighbor to Wright's new condo owner Bill, who barely has time to walk in the door of his new place when Jack shows up, uninvited. Bill, an uptight Seagram's exec trying to hold onto a crumbling marriage, barely keeps a civil tongue during Jack's initial onslaught. After a fast, funny but fairly inconsequential first act, MacLeod's script moves from comedy to dramedy as Jack, a divorcee with a potentially serious health crisis on his hands lays a guilt trip on Bill for not picking him up at the hospital after a biopsy. Bill, preoccupied with his wife's anticipated arrival, gradually gets caught up in Jack's surreal tale of an encounter with his ex-wife and her new man, and his fears of having his children moved to another state. Then it's Jack's turn to sympathize when a message from Bill's wife shows she may never be joining him at all. The playwright doesn't handle the mood shifts too adeptly and has fleshed out Jack's character much more fully than Bill's at this stage in the script's development. The play feels about one draft away from where it really needs to be.
One can't fault the Rep's production, however. Kurt Beattie's direction is crisp and snappy, and old pros Steitzer and Wright are totally comfortable playing off each other. Wright is one of those actors who can convey a great deal with the subtlest of takes, and he makes us understand why Bill tolerates Jack's excessive behavior. Steitzer can bellow and bluster with his hands tied behind his back, but the real triumph of his performance is the way he shows the pitiful, frightened man underneath all the bluster. He walks the fine line between comedy and tragedy in a manner reminiscent of the late, great Jack Lemmon.
Things Being What They Are at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Center, through May 25. For further information visit the Seattle Rep's website at www.seattlerep.org.