By Stanford Friedman
The Pavilion, by Craig Wright, is a story about the uneven passage of time and the metaphysical weight of having made bad choices. Unfortunately, that is also the story of this production overall. It is unclear why this saga of romance gone wrong, first staged in 2000, has been remounted in the shoddy upstairs theater at the Producer’s Club but, like a black hole, it falls into itself, taking us along for the trip.
Things get off to a pesky start with an extended message about the preciousness of time in relation to turning off your cellphone and not recording any video during the show. Then the Narrator (Jon Adam Ross) takes the stage to offer musings on “infinite worlds” and “infinite centers,” aided by slide projections of water droplets and such. As with the Stage Manager in Our Town, but lacking Thornton Wilder’s poetic gifts, the Narrator then transports us from the ether of the universe to a specific locale, in this case, a 20th year high school reunion held in an old dance hall in Pine City, Minnesota. It is here we meet the former sweethearts Peter (Jeffrey Delano Davis) and Kari (Ayesha Adamo). Peter had left Kari knocked up and alone and has been living with two decades of regret. Kari, having not gone through with the birth, has been living an unsatisfied life with a golf pro named Hans. In the playwright’s best moments, Kari describes living with a “shadow of a baby,” in a life not ruined, but just “off by 17 degrees.”
You may wonder how a high school reunion is represented if only three actors are on stage. Well, the choice here is to have Ross portray every other attendee, not just with a line or two, but weaving entire subplots by himself. Using a high gravelly voice for the women and a low gravelly voice for the men, Ross is such an oddity that, for the entire first act, he overwhelms Davis’ performance. His Peter is a bit of a wimp with flat line deliveries and a woesome effort at singing that make you understand why Kari is in no mood to rekindle any flames.
Inexperience cuts two ways in this production. Michael Kostroff, making his NYC directorial debut, appears to think he is helming a staged reading. Ross seems tethered to a podium at the side of the stage. Even when performing his cavalcade of caricatures there is nowhere for him to go. Peter and Kari spend much of Act I center stage and cheating out toward the audience. Act II finds them sitting center stage with Ross still stuck stage right, and now barely lit. Kostroff builds a near powerhouse climax to Act I with the couple at the height of their like/hate relationship, but then sabotages the moment by having the Narrator quite calmly announce, “We’ll take a short break.”
On the other hand, Adamo, with barely a stage credit on her resume, delivers an honest and thoughtful performance. Employing a slight Minnesota accent and actual tears, and spared having to ever interact with the Narrator, her Kari is believably trapped, pissed off, flattered and accepting, a multi-dimensional creature worth caring about.
And speaking of dimensionality, projection designer Javier Molina has created an animated 3D backdrop designed to “create the nuance and feel of the play’s setting.” If it is a bit too reminiscent of being inside a video game, it at least provides the movement that is otherwise lacking on stage.
by Craig Wright; Directed by Michael Kostroff.
WITH: Ayesha Adamo (Kari), Jon Adam Ross (Narrator), and Jeffrey Delano Davis (Peter).
Scenic design by Zoey Russo; Lighting by Dylan Friedman; Sound by Zach Berkman; Projection design by Javier Molina; Tyler Winthrop; Stage Manager: Ben Liebert. Through November 22nd at The Sonnet Theatre at The Producer’s Club, 358 West 44th St., (800) 838-3006, www.paviliontheplay.com Running time: 90 minutes.