Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Dobama Theatre
Review by Mark Horning | Season Schedule

Also see Mark's review of A Bronx Tale and coverage of All City Musical

Abraham McNeil Adams, Kieron Cindric, Craig Joseph,
Rachel Lee Kolis and Treva Offutt

Photo by Steve Wagner
Sex, death, friendship, clutter, babies, mid life, the water level on the Britta pitcher, denial, the proper pronunciation of the Björn. How does all of this relate to the big picture of life that we all float through? That is the core of Melissa James Gibson's play This, now on stage at Dobama Theatre.

Four "forever friends" have passed through the twentysomething stage and are now dealing with life in their late thirties. Jane (Rachel Lee Kolis) is a poetry teacher, mother of a bi-racial tween girl, and a widow. Her best friends are Tom (Abraham McNeil Adams), a woodworker, and Marrell (Treva Offutt), a jazz singer, who are a bi-racial couple with a brand new baby who sleeps in 15 minute increments, and Alan (Craig Joseph), a single gay man who is still searching for his life fulfilling career. The group dynamics have been battered by a series of momentous changes that began with the death of Jane's husband Roy nearly a year before, followed by Marrell's pregnancy, and now the addition to the circle of Jean-Pierre (Kieron Cindric), a Frenchman who works with Doctors Without Borders and who Marrell is trying to hook up with Jane.

The play begins with Tom trying to talk Jane into participating in a game against her wishes. The game consists of Jane leaving the room and the remaining players making up a story; she has to guess what the story is about through a series of yes and no questions. The truth is there is no story. Any question Jane asks that ends in a vowel gets a "no" answer. Any question ending in a consonant gets a "yes" answer. Any question ending in a Y gets a "maybe." It is a psychological trick to get the player to make up their own story. Problems arise when Jane steers the game toward her late husband and her grief over his loss. She feels betrayed and leaves the group angry that they have tricked her against her will.

Another hand grenade is lobbed in when Tom and Jane have a brief, one-time fling that Marrell eventually finds out about. Emotions boil over until Jean-Pierre cuts through the murk with some sound continental reasoning of what is truly upsetting and what is "dinky."

Director Nathan Motta keeps the pace fast and furious as five well-meaning people cluelessly back their way into middle-age. Rachel Lee Kolis as Jane is the perfect femme fatale who after a year still cannot accept her husband's death and her responsibilities to her child and friends. Abraham McNeil Adams as Tom plays the perfect "lost in space nice guy" trying his best to be a good husband and father but in need of education and advice concerning both jobs. Treva Offutt as Marrell is another "rebel without a clue" who seeks revenge rather than compromise, thus attempting to totally destroy what little is left of the group's dynamics. Craig Joseph's Alan is both comic relief and the glue that holds the circle together, although he does not realize the importance of his role in this band of sisters and brothers. Lastly, there is Kieron Cindric as Jean-Pierre, doing a wonderful job as an English-speaking Frenchman whose idea of what are true life priorities wakes the tribe up and makes them think about what is real.

Using scant props (a sofa, easy chair, coffee table, breakfast bar, disappearing kitchen area, lamp, and garbage can), scenic designer Aaron Benson has crafted a number of settings that are relevant and easily negotiable. Marcus Dana does a fine job with the mood lighting, and the sound design by Nicholas Drashner is crisp.

The only real complaint one might have is the play's two-hour length, with no intermission. The audience really needed a break halfway through to reset their minds among other things.

Bits of comic relief bubble to the surface from time to time to give counterpoint to the harsh reality of mid-life survival as the under-noticed middle-agers of the world get some well deserved time under the lights. Well crafted, thoughtful and carefully written, This will give you pause to think about life, death, your place in the universe, and how the little things make or break a relationship. It is a play about "this", "that" and "everything."

This, through May 26, 2019, at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights OH. For tickets and information, call 216-932-3396 or visit

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