Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Barrington Stage Company
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of Oklahoma!

Mark H. Dold and Julia Coffey
Photo by Scott Barrow
Melissa James Gibson's This, presented on Barrington Stage Company's St. Germain stage through August 27th, is smart, clever, and just a bit much as five characters in their late thirties and/or early forties seek equilibrium and stability within their lives. It is not an insignificant task to direct the actors through their herky-jerky paces as the 95-minute sometimes comedic piece develops; Louisa Proske is commendably efficient as she facilitates this show.

From the outset, the script grabs attention as Jane (Julia Coffey), however reluctantly, is faced with playing a party game. Tom (Eddie Boroevich) and Marrell (Erica Droller) are married and living nearby. The couple and another friend, Alan (Mark H. Dold), have known each other since all attended the same college a couple of decades earlier. Now, they have gathered in Tom and Marrell's home. Alan is smart and smart alecky, too. The playwright sculpts him as a bit of a misfit, while another important player, Alan, issues forth a stream of commentary. Tom and Marrell have a baby in an unseen room, a little one who does not often sleep.

Jane is ushered out the door and the game's rules prove to be atypical. She returns, is prompted to ask questions, and everything moves along according to the last letter (vowel, consonant etc.) of her many queries. The group response is based upon the letter. As it happens, Jane lost her husband not all that long ago. The game, unfortunately, calls this to mind. Thus, she is bereft when departing the scene.

Feeling badly about the entire occasion, Tom goes to Jane's place the next day. At first haltingly and then most expressively, he admits that he has been long smitten with her—she jumps on him as he stands at the front door, and they go at it with ferocity. Call it major lust.

Gibson is a deft writer who gets inside heads and impulses of this generation. Her dialogue moves swiftly, too much so at times, as characters are talking over one another. The language can be clipped but the rhythm of the work is absolutely interesting.

On one level, this script considers fidelity or the lack of. Gibson's fifth character is Jean-Pierre (Paris Remillard), one of a group known as doctors without borders. Will he or will he not become involved with Jane? Suffice to say it is difficult to find identification with or positive feeling for this man.

The playwright provides four main characters who are anything but dull. Jane is a creative writing teacher and saddened mother. Alan is Jewish and gay and searching. He is also fairly manic and a drinker. Tom was around and about the Ivy League college where he met Marrell; he mowed lawns while the others were students. Tom is down on his current circumstances and fixated upon Jane. Marrell is a soulful jazz singer who sits at the piano (which is moved around Brian Prather's set) and accompanies herself on some lovely tunes.

Prather's scenic design is ingenious, successfully honoring a script that requires multiple dwelling places. The actors and stagehands combine to move around furnishings. Tom and Marrell's place includes a kitchen and couch. Jane's apartment, including a worn chair and a drying rack, isn't particularly inviting and her daughter Maude (unseen) is in a back room. As a young widow with a child, she is fighting for happiness.

The character of Jane, the true focal point, is altogether real and it is natural to empathize with her. Julia Coffey is mostly successful with her portrayal but does exaggerate every so often. It is difficult to ascertain whether this portrayal is scripted as such or if it is an actor/director choice. Mark H. Dold (featured at BSC often) is, once again, superb. Erica Dorfler is entirely credible as Marrell. Eddie Boroevich's Tom, however unfulfilled, does not endear. Instead, he comes across as wanting—to an extreme degree.

All of that said, Gibson's This quite effectively opens windows upon lives of this generation. Even if one does not especially enjoy these people, they are delineated precisely. The author, for certain, is a distinctive dialogue writer.

This continues on the St. Germain stage at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, through August 27th, 2017. For tickets, call (413) 236-8888 or visit