Sunday, December 11, 2016

Review of Faithless by Andrew Joseph Clarke--Boston Playwrights' Theatre

Review by Doug Holder

I always tell my creative writing students at Endicott College that you don't need to have been on a mountaintop, conversing with some monk--to be inspired to write a poem.  You can be in a down-at-the heels java joint in your neighborhood, waiting for the Dudley Bus, or shooting the breeze with the local homeless guy at the park. In the case of the Boston Playwrights' Theater's production of Andrew Joseph Clarke's play " Faithless", the drama takes place in one of the more banal places of our acquaintance--the late night hospital waiting room--where basically the cast of characters wait for their mother, and in the case of Sam-- the teenage girl-- the grandmother, to pass.

At first after reading the description of the play about a fading Irish matriarch, two feuding sisters, the return of a wayward brother, I was afraid that the play would be a rehash of any number of the Eugene O'Neill family tragedies. But Clarke put his own signature on this production with his well-developed complex and conflicted characters, and the still haunting presence of their late father-- a decidedly embittered and hapless man. The actual mother never appears on stage but her heavy presence in the waiting room is never in doubt.

The cast was first rate. Maureen Keiller, who played one of the sisters-- Maureen--was a standout. She had a great Irish face (if there is such a thing), and emotion registered on her careworn canvas with nuance, smirks, the lifted eyebrow, and the studied sarcasm. Her performance impressed me as truly genuine, and in fact I noticed she was still emotionally-involved with her character even after her bow. I may be wrong--but I think she was crying--in any case she was heavily invested in this character that she intimately inhabited.  The teen daughter -- played by Abby Knipp--was expertly portrayed by this actress with the affected-eye-rolling, angst of a teenager in search for her family and her identity. Greg Maraio, as the gay, wayward son Skip-- was a bit stiff--but did have a credible performance. Christine Power played the control freak sister with aplomb.

At times the play had echoes of Arthur Miller and such--and at times seemed a bit formulaic. But I think Clarke--   a student in the  MFA program at Boston University, is a playwright to watch as he explores the underbelly of the American dream--and carves the meat off our daily play acting to the bone and perhaps the marrow.

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