Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Common Pursuit

What could have been a riveting barn-burner and some fierce competition for the much-hyped Cock over The Duke turns out to be a brush-fire that smolders about 25-30 minutes longer than it should with a decent flair-up at the end over at the Laura Pels.  

Simon Gray's two-act portrait of friendship and family certainly makes you think and reflect on life.  Spanning 20 years over 4 (well, really 5) scenes, The Common Pursuit takes you on a journey through the connected lives of six young college students as they form a literary (the titular reference) magazine and the subsequent decisions they make, paths they choose, and the lives they lead.

Set in England, we are introduced to a mix-and-match group of unlikely (yet not altogether unexpected) group of friends who all meet regarding said literary magazine being started by idealist Stuart Thorne (Josh Cooke).  Loves blossoms, life-long bonds of friendship form, and personalities develop, and wax and wane among the all-around fine ensemble including Marigold (Kristen Bush), Martin (Jacob Fishel), Humphry (Tim McGeever) Peter (Kieran Campion) and Nick (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe).

Act I is more than a bit too long.  While a certain amount of exposition is necessary to understand the life-long, enduring bonds of friendship among the characters, there were a few unnecessarily long monologues, and in the case of Nick, much-too-much hamming-it-up which Director, Moises Kaufman, should trim.

Act II is where the action is - and in stark contrast we finally see the figurative guns from Act I being pulled out, waived around, and in some cases used.  The boredom and monotony quickly wore off and I was engaged, interested, and quickly found myself engaged in the characters.  The lack of struggle or conflict in Act I (or perhaps just more the feeling of where is this going?) is completely obliterated in this shorter, much more punchy and dramatic half.  

I found myself leaving the theatre with my lady-friends engaged in discussions and debate about connected or unconnected dots among the characters, hints dropped in earlier scenes, and the meanings or messages ascribed to each character.  A few days later, it still piques my interest while writing this review.  That's the sign of good work.  I just have this nagging feeling that it could have been even better than it was. It's certainly, however, worth the price of admission.  The chance to renew my own bonds of friendship afterwards - Priceless.