Doubting Thomason, which opens this week at the , is a play with genuine promise and brilliance that nonetheless meanders into too many blind alleys and unmotivated chasms.
The play, which runs through August 13, is about a theater company that learns that they do not have the rights to perform a popular play days before the opening. Under pressure, a company member writes a play and this play is seen within a play that concerns putting on the original play. Each actor plays diametrically opposed characters in the two plays.
The double identities and gratuitous nudity cloud what is other wise a well-conceived production. The extremes and need for shock value here harm our understanding of the characters’ two-sided personas.
The play within a play is wonderfully thought-provoking and stimulating until it goes too far. It would have been a much purer theatrical experience had some of the sexual situations been replaced by more substantive and artistic moments.
Playwright Christopher Brewster, however, deserves credit for the daring and ingenuity that kept an almost sold-out house laughing for nearly two hours on the Saturday night that this critic saw the play. Directors Bree Pavey and Steve Jarrard keep the pace quick and give each character as well as the two plays an unerring spontaneity.
Brewster’s vulnerability as an actor translates into a realistic and innocent Thomason and Robert. Kelly Kemp is strong and sensitive as Kate and Blake even though the two characters are sometimes blurred. Bree Pavey’s control and compassion make Lynette and Bonnie two unique characters, who could have nonetheless been more developed.
But it is Paul Storiale who steals the show with a personification of two separate and distinct characters that is tremendously transcendent and funny, yet thought-provoking and inspiring. On stage, his Teddy and Lee effortlessly command attention. Off stage we anxiously wait for their return.
In the end, we forget the broken branches in the laughter, but remember the tree.
The Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Boulevard. Tel: 818-795-0690.