By John Swartz
If you only see one play at the Opera House this summer, make it Where You Are. I’ve enjoyed a lot of theatrical performances over the years, but I don’t think anything has been this enjoyable.
Everything starts with the script. Kristen Da Silva may not be well-known to many, but Where You Are is her fifth play. As a comedy writer she’s good. I can’t say there have been many times a funny line has moved the story along quite so well, or served as the setup for the next funny line, or one on the next page of script. This is a regular feature of the script.
I’ve seen some stuff comparing her to Norm Foster, who writes some very good stuff. If Da Silva’s other plays are as good as this one, I’d say she’s better. The jokes are more in keeping with this time too, which they should be for a relatively fresh play. Even Norm Foster’s newest rely on some tried and true bits you can see coming, not so here.
Also, the play moves, there is no down time, even at the end when the subject gets serious (don’t worry there’s a funny epilogue to send you off not feeling morose).
Of course, an actor can mess it up by not delivering the lines. This cast has it down though. Every member gets moments to make us laugh out loud. And as much as I hate to admit it, my long held resolve to not react while in the theater lost the battle. I couldn’t help laughing right out loud, they left me no choice.
This cast is just perfect for the material too. If you need an actor to play the guy next door all the women drool over, give Kevin Aichele a call. If you need an actor to play the young women you’d like to know better in real life, give Caitlin Driscoll a call. If you need an sly, instigating, and thoroughly lovable aunt / sister / wiser-than-she-looks-or-lets-on woman, give Susan Greenfield a call. It’s almost like Jesse Collins (director) was typecast hunting at audition time.
And, if you want an off the handle, brash, I don’t give a crap, strong protagonist, you have to have Debbie Collins on speed dial. She’s been in so many plays at the Opera House over the years and she’s always the center of the storm, but this time she’s the whole storm front. I think this is probably the best role I’ve seen her in. Sometimes she seems over the top when compared to the rest of a cast in whatever the play she’s in because her confidence in the part she’s playing is so great. Everyone else has to step up their game to match what she brings to a stage. This time, the others were playing in the same park.
What I liked most is A), the diction and projection was fantastic, there was no issue trying to understand a mumbled or chewed line – and I hate when everyone on the other side of the theater is laughing and I couldn’t hear the line, and B), their action was natural. There were so many little things I caught that seemed just right, something a person would do in the circumstance whether it is crossing the stage, picking up a set piece, fiddling with some object, gesturing to something off stage, all of it was well timed and came from the characters.
In short, this cast made real people out of the characters and there’s not much more an actor can do.
Where Are You runs to July 19 and you can get tickets online.