Sunday, May 30, 2010

Review: "Confluence of Dreaming" at Pittsburgh Playhouse Rep-30 May 2010

There’s a world premiere from The Rep at Pittsburgh Playhouse. It’s called Confluence of Dreaming and it’s by Tammy Ryan who also wrote FBI Girl which premiered there in 2007. She also lives here and her plays have been produced all over the country. She’s crafted a sometimes clever script which gets superbly performed and which John Amplas has directed with imagination and a great sense of physical comedy. The hilarious and ultimately touching second act compensates for weaker elements in the writing and the conception.

The most original aspect of the play concerns on-line chat rooms and the contrast between sexual fantasies and attempts to follow them through in real life. Ryan gets good comic mileage out of on-line connected simulated sex and the subsequent connection of real people whose fingers are no longer typing out words but instead groping body parts. Ryan also comes up with a good and touching closing scene, which, although, not far removed from soap opera, contains sweet surprises.

In Confluence of Dreaming the focus is mostly on Carol, a wife and mother who feels as if life is passing her by in a suburban middle class marriage. She, her husband Peter and their 17 year old daughter Morgan have only one computer, moreover with only a dial-up line, this being 2001. When Carol can, she visits a chat room where she encounters Ted. Eventually they meet in person.

Ryan’s examination of the marriage and the relationship with young Morgan doesn’t look particularly original or insightful. And, throughout too much of the script Ryan evokes symbolisms from The Wizard of Oz, a now-clichéd device, one she really doesn’t need.

You have to admire the actors giving so much believable definition to the characters. In particular Sam Turich’s portrayal of Ted comes across superbly rich in nuance. He plays a simple-minded fool to perfection. As Carol, Bridget Connors remains touchingly vulnerable in her sincere confusion. Robert Turano’s version of the husband Peter, makes stereotypical laconic responses seem as if coming from a real person, He never pushes the obvious. And Point Park senior Connie Costanzo always stays convincing as the young daughter Morgan.

Meanwhile director Amplas, aided by scenic designer Stephanie Meyer-Staley and lighting designer Andrew David Ostrowski give the entire production a constantly fascinating look and flow. Plus Amplas, along with Turich and Connors, have made the second act sex scene wildly funny. Everyone on stage and behind it makes the script look and sound like it says more than it really does.

Confluence of Dreaming continues through June 13th in Pittsburgh Playhouse’s Studio Theater, Oakland. Info and tickets: 412/621-4445

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