By Rosalind Friedman
Pretentious Poetry, Portentous Philosophy, and a Raft of Expletives permeate The Pavilion.
Craig Wright’s play, The Pavilion, takes place in the small town of Pine City, Minnesota in May. Directed quite well by Chad Rabinovitz, it is permeated with pretentious poetry, portentous philosophy, and a raft of expletives. The Narrator, playing G-d, deftly depicted by Michael Milligan, who also takes on many other characters, male and female, controls everything. He raises his hand, and Clifton Taylor’s dreamlike lights, Ryan Rumery’s original music, the sound of one raindrop, all come to life. He immediately tells the audience this play is about Time. Time will somehow be different here. And all through the two hours with intermission, he tells us in windy speeches what time it is, very much like the Stage Manager in Our Town---but much longer. That is the first problem with this play, which is not without its charming and sad moments. The playwright tells you too much. How much better it would to discover through the play that it is about time and life and all that good stuff.
All the action is set in an old-fashioned Pavilion, a landmark on a lake. It is scheduled to be purposively burned down by the fire department the next day and replaced by a large cold convention hall; the set designed by Hugh Landwehr, features a dramatic curve of wood that sweeps from floor to high ceiling which pays homage to the set of Agnes of God. Here in the Pavilion, a Twentieth high school reunion is taking place. Among the large number of usual suspects, there is a love-sick police chief, a pot-addicted mayor, a minister, and the chairwoman of the event, all played by Michael Milligan. In his tour de force performance some are portrayed very effectively; but as Mr. Milligan switches back and forth, things get confusing.
Then there are former high school sweethearts, Peter and Kari, acted by attractive tall, dark Michael Laurence and blond Tracy Middendorf. It seems when Kari at the age of 17 told Peter she was pregnant, he left her high and dry for college, never speaking to her again. She aborted the child, is scorned by the townsfolk, subsequently married Hans, a Golf-pro, and has been unhappy ever since. A guitar-playing psychologist living at present with a 23 year old artist, Peter has decided after 20 years that he is still in love with Kari.,,,and they should run off together. They argue back and forth about this all night. Kari is initially outraged, finally forgives her old beau, dances the final Sweetheart Dance with him, and decides to go on with her present life.
The Narrator’s language is at times lovingly thoughtful; but in contrast Kari and Peter’s conversation is peppered with expletives that are unnecessary and not related to the characters they are playing. Costumed by Laurie Churba Kohn, the actors do their best they can with limited material.
The Pavilion, originally produced by the City Theatre Company, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and partially developed at the Carnegie School of Drama, will play at the Westport Country Playhouse through May 31.
(This review originally aired on WMNR Fine Arts radio.)