Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Slipping (Rattlestick Th.)

Phoenix Rising / Rattlestick Theater
Aug. 3, 2009
Daniel Talbot (writer)
Kirsten Kelly (director)

Slipping, now playing at the Rattlestick, has my favorite kind of mistakes: those of inexperience. Daniel Talbot's emo drama about high-school queer confusion wears its youth like a t-shirt logo. It's all very serious—high schooler Jake has just moved from SF to Iowa after his father's suicide—with its best beats involving a sicko conflation of sex, love, and self-loathing. Self-mutilation is key to the plot, which also flashes back to a secret relationship that poisoned Jake's psyche.

Talbot, like many inexperienced playwrights, toys with standard modern dramaturgy (non-linear structure, direct address) but he also misreads his own story. Slipping wants to be a straightforward romance, right down to the thinly-drawn male ingenue whose love will heal Jake's psychic wounds. But Talbot leans instead on his protag's grief and self-loathing, turning the play into a melodrama. There's not enough contrast between the hero's dark California past and his sunny Iowa present. A more seasoned playwright would also find some optimism in Jake's youth, and lift the dour off the perfunctory resolution: at 17, this kid's not irrevocably damaged.

Still, I can see why the Phoenix Rising Company produced Slipping: it's fresh-faced and sexy, and with scenes of adolescent kanoodling and tortured love, it's nicely theatrical. Its lead role offers many opportunities a hot young man (in this case, Seth Numrich) to emote. And stealing the show is gloomy, rangy Adam Driver as the jock ex-boyfriend who isn't sure whether he wants to kiss Jake or punch him. Slipping is passably entertaining, and its playwright shows some promise.

No comments: