See Dick…A Childish Comedy For Grown Ups
at The Sherman Playhouse
Playwright B. Peter Hughes’ See Dick…A Childish Comedy For Grown Ups is a goofy two-act comedy about an imaginary childhood companion, Dick, who reappears years after he exited from the life of a fellow named Jack. The latter at first misinterprets Dick’s presence as that of a burglar who has invaded his home. Dick, after all, waves a pistol, and Jack initially imagines that he’s up to no good.
In defense of house and home, Jack rattles through some pretty rapid dialogue, divided, if one can keep up with it, between entreaties to the invader not to kill him and theories about what Dick is really up to. At one defensive point in their encounter, Jack suddenly goes into a karate stance adolescents among us (will we never grow up?) should immediately recognize as the “Flying Crane.”
Dick, however, is not the mortal menace Jack took him to be at first. After all, the pistol was only a toy cap gun that Dick brandished, and when it goes off, Dick needs all his powers of persuasion to convince Jack he is not actually dead.
Jack soon learns that Dick is invisible to everyone else, making credible the claim he really is a former imaginary playmate on rerun. So Jack can relax a bit about his imminent demise. His problem is that what unfolds across the two acts of See Dick is not only an ordeal for him, he might be on the verge of wishing that pistol was real, and Dick had actually done him in before the curtain goes down.
Dick, it seems, has returned to get Jack on the stick about his less than stellar performance in life, meaning: his job, his family, and his relationship with women after a failed marriage. Maybe playwright Hughes’ version of constructive advice was meant to take the form of Dick’s hounding Jack with a relentless outpouring of quips, double entendres, and rapid fire nasty humor, but its is hard to see how he allows Jack to come up for air. It’s treatment that’s a bit hard to take, even if well motivated. And Dick’s incessant hectoring isn’t even coupled with advice packaged in specifics. When Jack claimed he and his wife grew in separate directions, Dick’s riposte, “In a month and a half?” doesn’t give the other much to go on by way of counsel.
For this reviewer, Dick was eerily reminiscent of the Hugh Laurie role in House, a know-it-all physician whose smugness has long since grown tiresome for any viewer of the T.V. series. Except House usually moderates the velocity of his rancor. Director Joseph Russo has Dick dispensing his more like a gattling gun that won’t give up.
Jack is a shoe-in for having an imaginary playmate. He’s into a life of fantasy, anyway: famous editions of original Superman and Batman comic books, video games, electronic and robotic toys, and other memorabilia, suggesting either that he has one foot in another world, or else has much in common with many high school sophomores cross the country. Dick may be a harrowing presence to Jack, but the real snit comes when another character manhandles one of his collectibles. Then there is all hell to pay.
Mr. Hughes’ second act has some mystifying moments. Dick and Jack’s new girlfriend, Cass, appear and reappear in the former’s Looney Tune garb, and it’s difficult to know what’s intended here. Are Dick and Cass actually the same person putting in staggered appearances? Or are they different persons with the same mantra about straightening out our hero?
Director Russo’s pacing of the dialogue, especially between Jack and Dick, tended to be nervous and rapid, with the loss of some of it for the audience. There is some genuinely funny lines to savor, and a moderated and more varied pacing might have been more advantageous for this kind of comedy.
As Jack, Aaron Kaplan put in a sympathetic performance as his invisible companion’s put-upon, while James Hipp as Dick never let up on the browbeating of the guy he wouldn’t have existed without. Katya Collazo as Cass tried to be an understanding girlfriend in an exasperating relationship, while Quinn Uniacke as Marcie, Jack’s sister, had a satisfying debut at the Sherman Playhouse. Little Sebastian, Jack’s nephew, is an undersized, but capable trouper. He brought the house down when he bowed to the audience at curtain call.
The production team’s evocation of the past was successful, with Sound Design by David White and familiar icons trotted by: comic book heroes, Puff the Magic Dragon, Spiderman, Barbie Dolls, the Tooth Fairy, Star Wars, etc.
On a scientific note, establishing the actual incidence and prevalence of imaginary companions in children depends upon 3 factors: the explicit definition of the phenomenon under study, the number of subjects polled, and sampling methodology. Playwright Hughes’ estimate of 67% of children in previous research seems to be a gross overestimate, especially if the 3 factors were varied unsystematically. Other studies have found far less of a percentage. Research, depending upon how it is formulated, can be as much of a crap shoot as any dice roll in a nameless casino.
See Dick…A Childish Comedy For Grown Ups premiered at The Sherman Playhouse, 5 Route 39 North, Sherman, CT, on November 6, and runs on consecutive Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM. There is a Sunday matinee on November 15 at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $20 for open seating, and may be purchased by calling the box office at 860.354.3622 or online at www.shermanplayers.org.