The Snake Can/by Kathryn Graf/directed by Steven Robman/Odyssey Theatre/January 19 - February 24
Kathryn Graf's world premiere The Snake Can assuredly offers nothing new, but its moment to moment confrontations and gripping dialogue make it completely engrossing from start to finish. With an expert ensemble and sturdy direction from Steven Robman, who really understands women's issues, the play is bound to entertain and hit the spot, especially with middle-aged people savvy about internet dating.
Graf's keen sensitivity to both women and men at middle-age is stunning. She allows her characters the time to ask questions, think about the consequences of their actions, and most importantly, consider where true happiness lies. Nina (Diane Cary) is a painter and after a painful divorce from actor Paul (Gregory Harrison), attempts to start life fresh. But, when it comes right down to it, and Paul puts moves on Nina's friend Meg (Sharon Sharth), Nina, who has already given her approval to the match, is not at all content, beneath the surface. Typical at this critical stage, she questions the value of her transformation and sees the possible futility of it all. Meg, who is genuinely attracted to Paul, finds difficulty accepting his advances toward her because of her close friendship with Nina. As a mouthpiece for Graf, Meg has a stellar bit of insight: "there are worse things than loneliness". Then, there's the third friend Harriet (Jane Kaczmarek), a single mom whose husband up and died on her after 20 happy years of marriage. Her entrance into the world of internet dating is laden with disbelief and mistrust. She is so insecure that when she meets an obviously lovely mate Stephen (James Lancaster), who hints that he might have been bisexual, she refuses to accept his protestations and give him a chance. How these people treat one another and what they eventually learn about give and take as they take the plunge into new, unsteady relationships are ultimately more urgent to Graf than a speedy, sitcomlike outcome. She wonderfully infuses her writing with uber moments of humor, like showing us Stephen's absurdly silly internet pictures as he woos Harriet online.
The cast is sensational under Robman's giving hand. Kaczmarek, Sharth and Cary are all fine actresses, who are not afraid to get in touch with their raw emotions. Sharth, whose Meg is so smart and beautiful, really stands out as her character wrestles with priorities, putting her needs and desires on the line. Lancaster has perhaps the toughest male role as Stephen. Torn by his refusal to commit, he must face the possibility of lying to himself about who he is and what he really wants. A lovely, restrained performance! Harrison continues to look forever young and dashing as Paul and gets a chance to shine in a beautifully touching moment with Meg. Joel Polis shows delightful versatility in playing two completely different roles: businessman Jake, a user in every sense of the word and Brad, a flamboyant gay man who offers the best advice of the evening: having is better than losing. Hana S. Kim is to be lauded for her projection design which adds so much vibrancy and fun to the entire play.
The Snake Can is a surprisingly satisfying evening of intelligent theatre, made admirable by Graf's thoroughly detailed analysis of human relationships and by a strong ensemble, unafraid to convey vulnerability.