Recent graduates Reyna (Clea DeCrane, also the playwright) and boyfriend Andrew (Andy Do) have just returned from two months in Tokyo where she completed intern work at Green Comm. “I got to sit in on some big meetings — Apple, Toshiba — they’re making big plans to create biodegradable phones and computers in the next year.” Securing a paid position at the company is all this overachieving young woman has thought about for years. Her application is in. Competition is tough, but Reyna’s confident. She’s to find out the next day.
The couple are welcomed home by bosom, college buddies Caitlin (Jessica Darrow), a self depreciating, openhearted artist who works in a gallery and obtusely optimistic entrepreneur Lily (Regan Sims),who’s flogging an ostensibly beneficial tonic. Are millennials this physical? Do they literally jump into each other’s arms, hug, hold/grasp? What kind of history do Caitlin and Andrew have that she’s all over him? I thought, at first, they were siblings. Let’s say greeting is wildly enthusiastic.
It turns out that while in Japan, “on a whim,” Andrew also applied to Green Comm – without telling Rayna. If this weren’t blow enough, they offer only him a job. Subjugating hysteria, she tells him he has to accept the opportunity. It’s after all, the right thing to do.
Regan Sims, Ben Lorenz and Jessica Darrow
Some would turn to alcohol or drugs to ease the sting. Health nut Rayna takes A LOT of vitamins and throws herself into domesticity, making kale smoothies with which she plies Andrew. He excitedly starts the job while Rayna tries in vain to get another in the field. “Is this alright to talk about?” he asks her. Of course, she replies gritting her teeth, slamming around the house, snapping at friends.
Both Caitlin and Lily move forward with their lives garnering some success while Rayna is stuck, at least temporarily, working at Olive Garden. Interaction among friends occurs primarily though messages, including emojis, spoken by an onstage actor – whether email or text is unclear. The device is apt – contemporary/trendy, but one misses a bit more face to face communication.
Andrew and Caitlin grow closer at the artist’s instigation. Meanwhile, Rayna has her own extracurricular fling – Ben Lorenz as Jack. She and Andrew are increasingly alienated. They exchange cruelties. Each in his/her own way is also physically unwell.
When the source of Andrew’s debilitation is traced to Rayna, she’s completely ostracized. Method and outcome are Shakespearean, yet timely. (Oddly, the character’s own, very different symptoms are never explained.)
The piece could use some editing, but there’s a great deal of good writing. Author Clea DeCrane clearly has the pulse of her time and peers. Given that the audience was filled with young people who seemed to know one another, I shouldn’t be surprised at laughter evoked by lines this middle aged reviewer found foolish/unworthy.
Director Kevin Kittle suffers something of a handicap with a Set in which we never know quite where we are. As noted, physicality is extreme. Facial expressions are also over taxed, indicating emotion that could be shown in a less obvious/overt way. Characters remain very much themselves. Pacing is good.
Among actors, DeCrane is most consistent and least self conscious, though all have their moments. Jessica Darrow gets better as the play moves on.
Cate McCrea’s Set Design undoubtedly strives to look natural and inexpensive but instead appears colorless and, except for the kitchen, without individuality. Costumes by Christianne Bakewell suit characters well.
Photos by Brendan Swift
Opening: Clea DeCrane and Andy Do
Station 26 Productions present
Bitter Greens by Clea DeCrane
Directed by Kevin Kittle
Through December 23, 2018