Saturday, July 16, 2016
Harbor attempts to examine “what’s a family” at convergence continuum
What happens when a happily married gay couple’s home is invaded by one of the duo’s pot-headed, manipulating sister, with her teen daughter in-tow? According to Chad Beguelin, the author of the play Harbor, which is now on stage at convergence-continuum, the answer is angst, frustration, revelations and a surprising, if less than expected, conclusion.
Ted, a successful architect and his younger husband Kevin, an unproductive writer who has been working on a novel for ten-years, are living a comfortable life in the upscale community of affluent Sag Harbor, New York. The spouses appear to be in a loving and caring relationship, with Ted as the breadwinner and decision-maker and Kevin as the passive partner.
One evening, with no pre-notice, Donna, Kevin’s sister, and Lottie, her precocious daughter, appear on the doorstep, expecting to stay for “the night.” That night stretches out to many months as Donna reveals she is pregnant, wants the “boys” to become the child’s father, and pay her for her “services” as the surrogate mother. The goings on center on manipulation, a power struggle, discovery of self values, and a path toward the future that few would expect.
Beguelin has a background in writing light-weight musicals such as Elf and The Wedding Singer. This background seems to have imbued him with a writing style that centers on speeches that don’t sound like words a person would say in a realistic play. His script is full of stereotypes of gays and the less affluent.
The writer goes for one line “yuks.” Donna, who has little education, but lots of street smarts, states, “I thought the word misogynist meant someone who gives massages” and in describing the men she has dated relates, “I’ve seen so many assholes I could be a proctologist.” That kind of “humor” may work in escapist musicals, but aren’t as effective in what is supposed to be a message show.
The 2013 off-Broadway production of Harbor received a positive reception, more for the production than for the script. Yes, the concept is interesting, while the development somewhat weak. For the show to have a chance of working, there must be a clear development of the characters, as was done in NY.
The con-con production, under the direction of Cory Molner, isn’t terrible, but doesn’t fare as well as its off-Broadway counterpart.
Talented Maya Jones gives a very strong performance, portraying the 15-year old Lottie in a totally believable, well-textured manner as a bright, polite and creative young lady.
Patrick Gladish, as Ted, has some nice moments. Especially effective is his outburst about hating children, entitled parents and double-wide strollers. He states, in one of Beguelin’s stereotyping speeches, “One of the best benefits of being gay, aside from the really great taste in window treatments, is that kids aren’t expected to be part of the equation.” His rant about Ted’s pampered, idle life was also effective.
Gideon-Patrick Lorete (Kevin) and Cat Kenney (Donna) unfortunately create caricatures rather than living, breathing people. Preplanned, unnatural gestures, rolling eyes and pouts often accompany over-done speeches.
Molner needed to work to create realism, not representationalism. He does add an interesting dimension by using ethnic-blind casting, resulting in a gay white/Asian couple, a mother with an African American daughter and an Asian/white brother/sister.
Clyde Simon’s set design works well. Working in a bandage-sized stage, he has wrangled the multiple spaces needed to visually realize the show within the theatre’s small budget.
Yes, con-con works on a petite budget, but when a whole segment of the script raves about the birthday cake that is about to appear, and when what comes out is five cupcakes with some plastic flowers, the results, like the over-all effect of the play, is disappointing.
Capsule Judgement: Billed as an “uproarious and moving comedy,” though the cast tries hard, this play basically misses out on both concepts. It’s not all the director’s fault. The script doesn’t hold up its part of the bargain, either. Too bad…the concept is very thought provoking.
Harbor runs through July 30, 2016 at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. For information and reservations call 216-687-0074 or go to http://www.convergence-continuum.org
convergence-continuum’s next show is Cleveland Height’s playwright Eric Coble’s Barking Dog present the weekend of August 11-13. It will be followed by the world premiere of Chris Johnston’s Selfies at the Clown Motel, running from August 26-September 17.