The Pavilion by Craig Wright is a uniquely self-aware piece. But even as the script constantly reminds the audience that they are in fact watching a play, it is almost impossible to not become lost in Wright’s brilliantly crafted resignation to heartbroken longing and poisonous nostalgia. Presented by Critical Point Theatre, a “young professional ensemble of twenty-somethings devoted to make theater in any way we can” (as described by Artistic Director Julia Katz), The Pavilion’s emotional vibrancy and blatant theatricality are brought to life in a developing troupe’s mature interpretation.
The play itself is set in the titular pavilion housing a fifteen year high school reunion, focusing on the estranged “cutest couple” from the graduating class – Peter, a mental health worker with more problems than any of his patients, and Kari, the trophy wife committed to a loveless marriage with a golf superstar. However, as the night progresses, old wounds are reopened and fears are exposed as Kari begins to cautiously yield to Peter’s seemingly innocent advances.
While Wright’s writing may at times seem blunt (at one point, an actor declares “This play is about time!”), The Pavilion possesses a strong emotional core that invites a good deal of introspection. Its exclusive linearity allows the themes of fear, regret, and nostalgia to come into full bloom, letting beautiful imagery and tangible tensions take the center stage.
The hand of Director Julia Katz was evident in this stylized vision of Midwestern community. Aside from the excellent pacing, satisfying dramatic build, and powerful staging, Katz’s direction gave a produced a personal atmosphere supported by a distinctive interpretation of this play. Much of the conceptual legwork was executed by Matthew Schott, playing the Narrator, who also serves as every character at the reunion outside of the main couple. Schott’s overdramatic, caricature style acting provided a great amount of comedic relief as he would bounce from character to character, displaying his versatility with a swaggering stage presence. The script is littered with attacks on the fourth wall, which Schott handled charmingly, along with his dense poetic passages as narrator and cartoonish scenes as the supporting cast. Schott’s hyper-stylized technique allowed the former lovers to shine with a stronger connection, surrounded by the twisted visages of former stereotypes.
As Kari, Kelsey Secules produced a visceral build of anxiety that reached its boiling point at the end of the second act, culminating in a show-stopping monologue. Secules had a firm grip on her character’s buried awkwardness and resentment, making her moments of emotional vulnerability all the more poignant. However, there seemed to be a disconnect between the first and second act in terms of how she treated Peter, flipping one hundred and eighty degrees from violent disdain to quiet flirtation and subdued attachment. While she overcame this oversight, her character’s reintroduction seemed unsettling in an unintended manner. Wilson Murphy’s Peter was thoroughly sympathetic, despite being presented as a self centered, entitled boy in a man’s body. Although his performance wasn’t as dynamic as his cast mates’, Murphy fulfilled his role with true to life acting and an engaging character arc.
As the second stop in a four part tour, this Blacksburg based company was allotted a fair share of technical limitations. Nonetheless, designs were artfully presented and thought out. The sparse set pieces were well utilized as multipurpose building blocks for every scene. Suggestive lighting elements, such as paper lanterns for sunsets and Christmas lights for stars, were surprisingly impactful and filled up the small performance space fittingly.
With a captivating script performed by a promising company, The Pavilion is a production sure to move you in its uniquely theatrical setting.
Runtime: Two hours, with one ten minute intermission.