Friday, October 05, 2007

I Used To Write On Walls

Working Man's Clothes' production of Bekah Brunstetter's play, I Used To Write On Walls, ably directed by Isaac Byrne and Diana Basmajian, follows three very different women who have only two things in common: they're all very lonely, and they're all in love with the same surfer doofus.

The surfer doofus is a guy named Trevor (played with pitch-perfect precision by Jeff Berg). See, I know Trevor. I'm not talking about the actor, I'm talking about the type the actor is playing: faux deep, faux philosophical, but really a lazy, self-absorbed freeloader who avoids genuine human interaction and bolts when situations get too real or too tough.

No, I'm not a fan of Trevor, which is to say that I'm not kidding when Berg is spot-on in his portrayal of the "philosophical" young hunky Lothario.

Diane (wonderfully played by Maggie Hamilton) is a cop who realizes she's not a young kid anymore. She realizes this when she first sees said surfer doofus drawing a picture of a beach wave on a brick wall. Rather than bust him, she finds herself drawn to him, and reminded of her wayward youth when she used to write on walls, smoked pot, and had her whole life ahead of her. Trevor, who talks in vague New Age speak, tells Diane that he's drawn to her and has a mission from God to save the world (oh, that old mission).

Meanwhile, Trevor is also "dating" this cosmetologist Joanne (Darcie Champagne), although he cringes when Joanne uses the D-word. Dianne is a faux perky woman who is clearly on the verge of a psychic meltdown: someone who has very low self-esteem and for some reason terrified of her own vagina. I'm not kidding.

Like Diane, Joanne believes Trevor is Her Man, and asks him to see her on her upcoming birthday. Unfortunately for Joanne, she doesn't realize that when a guy says he's "too busy reading Kirkegaard" to meet up, that's not deep: that's a blow-off.

There's also a third woman, a young poet named Georgia (Levita Shaurice), who's at least smart and confident enough to know that, although Trevor is a hunk, he's most likely not someone to invest too much emotionally in.

And finally, every now and then we meet a precocious 11 year-old named Anna (Chelsey Shannon), who, despite her young age, tends to make men a little weak in the knees. How she fits into all this I will let you discover for yourself.

What I really want to stress here is how commendable the acting in I Used To Write On Walls is. As blatantly obvious a phony Trevor is to the audience, you fully buy how and why each of these women fall for his seductive lies. Watch the way Maggie Hamilton simultaneously fidgets and stiffens up as her character first talks to Trevor. Then watch her face as Trevor tells her character he loves her: her eyes pop out with such hope and disbelief. Her facial expressions, awkward cadence of speech shows a woman who is desperately lonely and no longer believes love is in the cards for her anymore.

Likewise with Champagne: she has such a sweet, smile filled with fragile optimism when she flirts with Trevor. But watch that smile falter just slightly when he tells her he's not sure he can see her on her birthday. It doesn't go away: she's determined to hold onto this newfound happiness.

Shaurice plays Georgia mostly angry with herself: attracted to a deadbeat in spite of herself. She knows she's too smart to fall for this, but is still too lonely to resist.

On one hand, I did wish the Brunstetter's script offered a little more insight to Trevor's character (it hints at some early Women and Wallace style emotional pain in a very bizarre, funny and creepy scene with a bugs-on-skin-crazy woman played by Ellen David who's into tying guys up), but on the other, is there really any depth to offer with such a clearly shallow and emotionally stunted manchild?

And ultimately, with a story like this, you do know where it's all leading up. But I Used To Write On Walls isn't about Trevor: it's about the women to whom he gives false senses of hope, boosted self-confidence, and a reminder of younger, happier days.

I Used To Write On Walls plays at the Gene Frankel Underground on 24 Bond Street until October 27. For tickets go here.

Always hitting on cops,

James "Drunk Tank Resident" Comtois

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