The World Premier of The Pacific Play Company’s “Snakes and Ladders” at Stone Soup Theater, needs to go back to the workshop. Although the core conflicts of the play are compelling and timely, the structure and most of the dialogue are inadequate to bring the subject to life.
“Snakes and Ladders” tells the tale of Evelyn (played by Brittany Cox) and Adrian (played by Fox Matthews) a couple, presumably in their late 20’s to early thirties, whose divorce is delayed by the slowness of the current housing market and an unscrupulous real estate agent, Scott (played by Jaryl Draper) who teams up with Evelyn’s best friend from hell (played byMeghan Deese-Dahl), to swindle them out of the money they could make, if they knew that the whole area was being re-zoned for industrial use. Once the couple realize that it is their “friends” who have betrayed them, rather than each other, they are able to work together to get out of the claws of the exploiters, as well as save their marriage and make a tidy profit.
There were several problems with the play; namely that it needs a re-write. The long, self-conscious exposition lasted until the second half of the second act and was full of extraneous tangents. As a result, the central conflict was given about five minutes to play out and conclude. Rather than a slow and suspenseful development, the realization of the betrayal happened very quickly, and was recounted for the audience’s benefit. Unfortunately that scene, where the couple sits down and figures it out, is one of the few scenes which got beyond sit-com quality. Adrian has a psychological break-through about his motives for trusting the obviously untrustworthy Scott. Unfortunately, the playwright did not include a similar self-realization about Evelyn’s motives for trusting Candace, so the audience is left with one big loose end.
Working at Stone Soup-a tiny store-front theatre-always presents acoustical problems because the audience is so close; however it can work if the actors and director deal with the limitations. That is to say, the decibel level has to be adjusted. The actors generally delivered the stilted and self-conscious dialogue too loudly and the predictable bickering was difficult to listen to. Whatever humor could have been extracted from the unfunny dialogue was lost because generally the actors played the lines for laughs rather than connecting with the tragedy and anxiety inherent in facing both a divorce and foreclosure. When the lines were more focused and less cute, the two main actors, Cox and Matthews stepped up to the plate and delivered the goods. Jaryl Draper generally was funny and had good comic timing, but Candace was never anything but annoying and self-conscious.
I commend The Pacific Play Company for staging “world premiers” at a time when safe choices are economical but a “world premier” of this play was pre-mature. “Snakes and Ladders” has all the elements of a good play, it just needs to be re-written focusing on the characters and their psychological development during this historic time of trials.
“Snakes and Ladders” by Daniel Tarker, At Stone Soup Theater, 4029 Stone Way, Wallingford, Seattle. Produced by The Pacific Play Company, directed by Sherry Narens. Thurs.,Fri, Sat at 8 pm. Through July 9th. www.brownpapertickets.com