2020. Technophobe Pamela Stark (Margot White) is having the kind of day where her husband sends divorce papers over a SmartPhone and the printer emits only red type. At the end of her tether, she finally connects to Chip at tech support (on speaker). Following endless prompts, the heroine ends up successively in 1916, 1946, 1978 …Cue dizzy turns and wide eyes. In each era, she meets some of the same people: Charlie/Joe/Biff- Mark Lotito, Chip-Ryan Avalos, Maisie/Lupe – Leanne Cabrera, Grace/Tori – Lauriel Friedman.
Pamela has lost her sense of self worth, pride as a woman, and belief in love, all of which playwright Debra Whitfield resolves in shorthand human relations, intermittent purpose, acknowledgment of women’s rights, and burgeoning affection.
There are bright spots, but the play is riddled with clichés, telegraphing every situation and character. Supposedly a smart dealer in antique books, Pamela can’t seem to stop using 21st Century vernacular no matter how many times she confuses people and is reminded. She’s inordinately praised as a fixer for noticing temperature control on an old toaster and releasing the lid of a plastic bowl. These incidents are as patently absurd as taking credit for asking whether a non-working machine is plugged in.
The first Chip’s phone attitude and dialogue, as well as various appliance-spewing prompts, are clever. Veteran Mark Lotito creates sympathy and adds ballast as does new-to-me Lauriel Friedman. Ryan Avalos can be appealingly ingenuous. Leanne Cabrera has credible moments of upset.
Unfortunately Margot White (Pamela) overacts, though she improves as the story evolves. This could, of course, be direction. The author/director is too close to her play to create something original beyond words.
Natalie Taylor Hart’s ugly scenic design looks as if it was left by the last unknown production. Nothing of the stucco textured walls and arches evokes a Beekman Place apartment. What’s supposed to indicate circuitry just appears silly. Pam’s printer and telephone are pointedly outdated; a gramophone and 1940s radio serves well.(Cyrus Newitt – props)
Elliott Forrest’s OOO-EEE, period projection design does the required job.
Costumes by Janice O’Donnell are spot on.
Photos by Russ Rowland
Chatillion Stage Company presents
Written and Directed by Debra Whitfield
Through September 21, 2019