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Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

The complex relationships between parents and children will always be ripe for theatrical exploration, but they deserve a more thorough and detailed treatment than they receive in Jesse Schmitt and Roger Awylard's play Fortune at the Midtown International Theatre Festival.

The play spans 15 years or so in the life of a young man (Steve Warkentin), from his conception (quite an unwelcome surprise to his then-unmarried parents) to the day his aspiring artist mother (Katharine Poklemba) walks out on the family and he must face his unfriendly, and often unhinged, father (Thomas Andrew Misner) alone. In between, he spends a fair amount of time on the streets of Manhattan, learning the ropes of physical and emotional survival from a philosophical homeless man (played by Schmitt) he meets there.

The scenes set in the family's apartment alternate with those set on the streets, but the scenes in each locale occur in proper chronological order, so it's not hard to follow the action; it's much more difficult to stay interested in the proceedings. The direction (courtesy of Awylard) is clean, and much of the acting (particularly from Poklemba and Schmitt) is good, but in the way the authors set up and knock down situations, often with a token amount of foreshadowing, and in the movie-of-the-week way problems either resolve themselves or don't, Fortune generally feels more like an outline than an actual play.

Despite the decent performers, the characters never come across as specific or compelling enough to succeed on their own, nor do they embody enough juicy symbolism to flesh out the allegorical cautionary tale it often seems Schmitt and Awylard intended Fortune to be. Even when the play strikes some emotional nerves - which most often occurs when it depicts what the parents do for themselves, what they do for their son, and how both parties draw distinctions between the two - the result never seems clever or insightful.

For its failings, this isn't a bad show, just an uninvolving one that doesn't make much of an impression, regardless of how hard it tries. It's also quite short - just about an hour - but given the Festival's other more complete and interesting offerings, even 60 minutes seems like a bit too much of an investment for Fortune.


Midtown International Theatre Festival
Through August 1
Running Time: 60 minutes with no intermission
WorkShop Theatre, Jewel Box Space, 4th Floor, 312 West 36th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues
Schedule and Tickets: SmartTix 212.868.4444

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