The traditional "reading of the will" scenario has a lot going for it. There's the money and property that the bequests can bestow but also the potential for secrets and skeletons to leak out in life's last great reveal. Not to mention the sometimes quirky conditions attached. For who can deny the dead their due? When it comes to dramatic potential someone's end is a good place to begin.
Or so it would seem.
MBS Productions' latest show, Fortune, is ironically poor considering the rich ground from which it springs. Playwright Bretton B. Holmes turns in a script that is promising in summary, but thin in execution. Although it is hard to give it a fair critique as director Charles Ballinger's actors come off underprepared and miscast.
Mark-Brian Sonna plays Roger, the long-ago gone dad of now grown son, Winston, played by Dylan Peck. At the beginning of the show, attorney Jack Brisbois (Mike Hathaway) reads the conditions of the ex-wife/mother's will: Roger and Winston have to spend a week in the house together. If either sets foot outside, they forfeit their half of the to-be-revealed-later fortune.
So far, so good.
Fueled by greed and spite, they agree to stay. Roger left when Winston was five. So, Winston heaves his lifetime supply of abandonment issues at Roger who counters by claiming Winston doesn't know the whole story. Unfortunately, neither do we.
The scenes seem to repeat themselves. (Though some of this could be attributed to Sonna's troubles with his lines at the performance reviewed.) On the last day, just in time for the attorney to return, Roger gives in and tells his side of the events that lead him to leave. The final movement of the play might have been touching were it not for the damage done on the way there.
Playwright Holmes' stranglehold on exposition hampers the character development and quenches any plot. In fact, the scenes are so similar only the parade of Winston's post-punk print T-shirts conveys the passage of time. The changing of which require long awkwardly underscored blackouts between each scene.
The production's problems originate, however, from the casting. Despite the beard and crotch-scratching, Mr. Sonna remains unconvincing as an insensitive and gruff working man. But as straining a stretch it may be to buy him as the pool-man dad, Mr. Peck's "pool boy" son, Winston, is a disbelief that cannot be suspended. From the shiny black nails to the shiny bald head, the diminutive Mr. Peck doesn't easily fit the form of a seducer of women for money.
Given the hand dealt, director Ballinger isn't able to make up for the deficit. Sometimes despite everyone's best effort, the sow's ear remains just that.