Dallas — Love songs have a corner on the market. Among those songs, no consensus exists about the nature of love. Is it a many splendored thing? Can you buy it? Would you do anything for it (but not that)? Does it just stink? IMPRINT Theatreworks’ production of Suckers by local playwright Devin Berg wades its way into the choppy waters of love and manages to make it to the other side without any hint of capsizing.
In Suckers, four twentysomethings fall in and out of love and each other’s beds as they learn what it means when fate strikes, both romantic and otherwise. The characters wax poetical and philosophical with a youthful naivete in turns infuriating, endearing, and heartbreaking. The action unfolds in a series of vignettes that do not cohere to a strict linear timeline as we watch their relationships ebb and flow.
Berg’s script does well by these characters, each of them fleshed out as a human and not a two-dimensional caricature. With the lives of the characters constantly shifting, however, sometimes the waters get murky. But that’s life, isn’t it? Instead of ignoring the tides of life, Berg’s writing embraces them and is all the better for it.
The cast has no weak link among them. As Jane (the soon-to-be-astrophysicist), Natalie Hope Johnson provides a strong entry point to the show. Her opening monologue feels natural as if it were invented on the spot. It carries with it an air of secrecy, the words she speaks shouldn’t escape this room. Josh Bangle as the guitar-toting Holden Dolberman is vanilla as ice cream in all the best ways. Bangle’s performance manages to surprise us in all the ways he can make Holden not surprise us. He has taken what could appear boring and turned it into something substantial. His Holden begs a second look. As Alex Scherbatsky, Matthew Allan Holmes grows from a manic, Fireball-drinking party boy to a young adult before our eyes. He shifts seamlessly from one moment to the next, alternating between prat-falling buffoon and heartbroken jilted lover. The evening, however, belongs to Cameron Casey as Daisy Wolfsheim. The first time Daisy emerges, every movement appears cold and calculated as if at any moment she will press the button that will end the world. But Casey embodies Daisy with an undercurrent of passion and affection that few, if any, will ever really get to see. Watching her wrestle between her outer image and her innermost desires proves reason enough to see the show.
Director Billy Betsill does not overplay his hand in the direction and design of this show. His scenic design, simple and functional, allows the actors to do the heavy lifting of telling the story. His steady and conservative hand guides the show along like a gentle breeze, only intervening when necessary. He allows the script and the actors to do the job they are meant to do without trying to shoehorn the narrative into an overbearing concept. Betsill gives some leeway to the design of costumes and props, allowing Tammy Partanen and Juliette Talley respectively to surprise us from time to time, but it does not detract or overpower the tone set by Berg’s script.
About halfway through the play, Daisy kisses one of the boys, complete with stereotypical heel-raise. Then she smiles and slaps him in the face. The moment perfectly encapsulates the experience of Suckers. Enjoy the good times, because a slap is right around the corner.
Allow me to turn the other cheek.
» Suckers continues in the following performance blocks:
- 8pm Thursday, July 19
- 8pm Friday, July 27
- 2pm Saturday, July 28
- 5pm Saturday, Aug. 4
The 20th Festival of Independent Theatres
July 13- August 4, 2018
Bath House Cultural Center,
521 E. Lawther Drive, Dallas
Tickets and passes go on sale in late June
Call 800-617-6904 or visit www.festivalofindependenttheatres.org