Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On An Average Day, None Too Fragile

(Some brother combinations do great things, like the Wright Brothers above. Then there are the brothers in this play,)

Thank goodness there’s an endless supply of dysfunctional people in the world, and even more in our imaginations. So we’re assured of never running short of the kind of brothers who are featured in On An Average Day by John Kolvenbach, now at the None Too Fragile theater in Akron.

Even though there are plenty of edgy plays about unsteady people living in squalid conditions, this script is a more well written example of the genre, with dialog that often crackles with mordant wit.

Squatting in his rundown family house, in a kitchen piled with old newspapers, Bob is a hot mess. But his brother Jack has arrived to help. Or has he?

As the two argue over beers grabbed from an odiferous fridge while listening to a bathroom shower that turns on at random moments, we learn a bit about their family’s history.

It’s not until the second act that more details come into focus, with a clever and unique turn that almost makes the script work splendidly.

The production benefits from two fine performances by co-directors Sean Derry and Mark Mayo. It’s nice to have Derry (co-founder of the defunct Bang and Clatter Theatre) back on an area stage, even though he’s playing his umpty-umpth slouching, mumbling derelict. Using his well-honed naturalistic delivery to splendid effect, Derry fully embodies the mentally tormented Bob.

And Mayo’s Jack, a supposedly more grounded adult than his squirrely bro, provides solid counterpoint to Derry’s rants. In the second act, Mayo hits cruising speed with a diatribe about their father that is totally gripping.

But this is far from a perfect script or an ideal production. Playwright Kolvenbach omits many details about the brothers’ lives, including virtually no mention of their mother or how they existed in their teens.

And while actors Derry and Mayo are often brilliant, overlapping their lines in a manner that feels true and honest, they also occasionally disconnect from the audience and the material.

While the overlapping dialogue is done to perfection, it eliminates the need for the characters to hear and bounce off each other. This lessens the tension and becomes tedious at times. Also, there are many moments when speeches are delivered into the middle distance, instead of at each other. Perhaps a director who wasn’t acting in the scene at the time could have corrected some of this.

Even with the glitches, there is snap in much of Kolvenbach’s material, and a second act turn that perfectly justifies the title. And that makes this first work by the newly reborn None Too Fragile theater a flawed but feisty winner.

On An Average Day
Through October 20 at the None Too Fragile Theater, 1841 Merriman Road (in the back room of Pub Bricco), Akron, 330-671-4563.

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