Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

All That Remains
The Tesseract Theatre Company

Review by Richard T. Green

Nyx Kaine, Sherard E. Curry,
and Victor Mendez

Photo by Brittanie Gunn
And now I will tell you about my secret double life: from a very early age, by day, I have been examining the means of honest and constructive communication. But then by night, I skulk into large, darkened rooms filled with strangers, where I crave the grotesque mysteries of deeply flawed communication. It's been this way ever since college: where I Was A Teenage Speech Major.

But what happens when the Dr. Jekyll of good communication meets the Mr. Hyde of good drama? When everyone is earnestly trying to understand one another, what is left to create tension or misunderstanding or grievance, or the awful fake hatred and reprehensible fake murders that spring from it, on stage? At last we find out, in a world premiere production (about a mass shooting in a public school) staged by the Tesseract Theatre Company at the Marcelle Theatre, of All That Remains.

The 90-minute play by JM Chambers ends with three or four strong scenes. But it is a mostly doomed pairing: the unholy theatrical union of active listening and the unbearable suffering following a present-day mass shooting (plus some possibly unnecessary added suffering from a very sad pregnancy storyline). The acting is sometimes very good, but more often it is tentative and skin deep. There's a high-quality performance by Melody Quinn as Elaine (and there's also a character named Melody, a ghost from the mass shooting, played nicely by Nyx Kaine), and very fine work as well by Victor Mendez as the ghost of a murdered student. But otherwise, good communication stamps out good drama, even when the story is ripped from today's most horrific headlines.

I can't wait to tell you how easily they could make it all work, because that's exactly what theater people always do after a show, boast about how they'd fix it. But in the meantime we can talk about the plot and characters under the very professional and nurturing direction of company co-founder Brittanie Gunn.

The actors are generally not previously known to me, but they are invariably well intentioned, and each shows definite signs of talent. The Tesseract Theatre Company deserves well-known actors, with hard-earned nuance in their back pockets, and the whole map of the space-time that exists inside a theater rolled up in their souls. Here, only the spear-carriers show up, to fearlessly charge into the fray with an untested new show. It is regularly apparent they haven't fully pre-packaged or arranged their own emotions in a way that more seasoned performers might have learned over time. Likable stage veteran Sherard E. Curry returns to Tesseract Theatre with an honest sense of anguish as Gary, a high school teacher whose life has fallen apart after 15 students and five workers were killed in his school building in Nebraska. A fine passionate argument with his wife (Ms. Quinn) opens the play, sharply raising our expectations.

But empathy, compassion, and active listening smother the drama at every turn. Too many scenes end with a hopeful promise for tomorrow, which is anathema to good storytelling. The playwright falsely signals, again and again, that we may fold up our programs and go home for the night, with each new commitment to healing and growing. Our finest actors would be eager to subtly f*** this up within each vignette, for the sake of the audience. Instead, every few minutes, Drama is merely the bug that's squashed against the windshield of good intentions, as polished communications skills come barreling at us, again and again, at a very sensible fifty-five miles an hour.

How to fix it? Lots and lots of sound effects, to represent the inner torment of that teacher, Gary. Lots of sounds of gunfire, and even shouting and screaming, all through his scenes, and maybe even the visual addition of chaotic figures in the background, scurrying back and forth along with the subjective noise, nearly non-stop, to represent what's going on inside Gary's head, to heighten his endless living nightmare. Then you'd have yourself a play. And an exploration of the sometimes unbridgeable gap between good drama and good communication.

All That Remains runs through July 31, 2022, at the Marcelle Theatre, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, St. Louis MO. For more information please visit

Gary: Sherard E. Curry
Elaine: Melody Quinn
Maggie: Morgan Maul-Smith
Dylan: Luis Aguilar
Melody: Nyx Kaine
Alejandro: Victor Mendez

Production Staff
Director: Brittanie Gunn
Stage Manager: Brittney Roberson
Set Design: Brittanie Gunn
Lighting Designer: Kevin Bowman
Sound Designer: Taylor Gruenloh
Technician: Cheyenne Groom