|Clockwise from left: Robert McConckey, Brian Jansen, Gabriel McClelland, Scott Douglas, Brian Hatcher and Heather Christopher.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
Seven Was to Get There
Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 12, 2016
Playwright Bryan Willis’s riveting play Seven Ways to Get There premiered a year ago this month at ACT Theatre in Seattle and is now being performed by Theater Artists Olympia. It was good in Seattle, and it’s even better, perhaps — more intense and more engaging in the intimate performance space at the Midnight Sun.
Co-written by Dwayne J. Clark, the play is based on Clark’s experience some 17 years earlier when he took part in men’s therapy group. Michelle, played by Heather R. Christopher, is a therapist facilitating, for the first time in her career, an all-male group therapy session. Not surprisingly, some of the men question her ability to run an all-male group and complain that they can’t open up with a woman present. The men are a mass of neuroses. Throughout the play the group teeters on the edge of total chaos.
Anthony (Christian Carvajal) has severe anger issues. He attends the sessions under court order and constantly lashes out at and belittles the other men in the group, especially Richard (Robert McConkey, who is addicted to pornography and has urinary issues and is an infuriating sticker for following the rules most of the others ignore.
Mel (Brian Hatcher) can never make up his mind about anything. His “decider is broken.” Seated next to Mel in most sessions, Peter (Scott Douglas) is severely shut down, but when he finally does speak it is a flood of self-loathing.
Mark (Gabriel McClelland) is an artist who is just beginning to gain success. His self-esteem is in the toilet thanks to a wife who scorns him and whom he is suspects is having an affair with her “ugly” rock-climbing instructor.
Vince (Brian Wayne Jansen) is a likeable enough fellow who claims to have had sex with more than 2,000 women but never really cares about any of them, usually feels empty after sex and can’t even remember the women’s names.
And finally, a late-comer to the group, Nick (Michael Christopher) is rich, arrogant, and believes he can buy off anyone, but underneath all his bluster is fear.
The writing is superb, probably Willis’s best play yet, and pacing, blocking and interaction of the seven men and one woman is like the smooth running of a complex machine — thanks in large part to excellent direction by Pug Bujeaud.
This play is a showcase of ensemble acting at its best. No one actor stands out, and each is in top form. Beginning actors would do well to watch this play multiple times and observe how intensely each and every actor stays in character and totally engaged even when the others are speaking, their personal and often highly personal reactions when other actors are “on camera,” be it hiding within themselves, slouching is disdainful inattention, or listening with hyper attention (and often reacting violently).
There is violence, a gunshot, a lot of foul language, and a surprising amount of outlandish humor.
Seven Was to Get There, Thursday-Sunday at 8 p.m., through May 21, The Midnight Sun, 113 N. Columbia St. Tickets: $12-$15, Available at door night of show or online at http://olytheater.com/.