Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Square That Is Too Long

Ken Morgan’s SQUARE: A STAGE PORNOGRAPHY

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Brand new theatre company KACM Theatrical Productions debuts this weekend. For an inaugural show, KACM could’ve done worse than Ken Morgan’s Square: A Stage Pornography. The two-person drama features Joshua Devitt and Jenna Wetzel as a pair of old high school classmates who hook-up ten years after graduation—almost inadvertently. I don’t think I’m really giving anything away by saying that the drama involves a 90-minute conversation that sees the two gradually getting undressed to a point of complete nudity. Vulnerabilities are exposed, intimacy is achieved and it all happens in the cozy atmosphere of the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center.

Not actually bad, the play isn’t actually very good either. Morgan’s script pits the heartfelt animal emotions of the former high school jock played by Devitt against the advanced and highly creative intellect of the engineer played by Jenna Wetzel. Animal versus Intellect in a ninety-minute seduction sounds like a very promising idea until you see it executed this badly. To their credit, in contrast to the promo video seen below, Devitt and Wetzel do a remarkable job of breathing life into a largely superficial script that only occasionally connects to flashes of inspiration. That they are able to make two vague acquaintances reach a point of intense physical intimacy over the course of ninety minutes without having it seem cheap and entirely boring is quite an achievement on their part. Director Tom Welchenbach has helped to render a remarkably real dynamic between two actors and two characters. It’s not east to render an entire relationship between two people over the course of ninety minutes and make it seem at all compelling. That Welchenbach, Devitt and Wetzel manage even a small fraction of this is a towering achievment considering how truly awful the script is.

To be fair to Morgan, I had no idea how deep this thing was going to get judging from the basic promo stuff. It seemed like a light, superficial comedy that didn’t have aspirations towards much more than addressing surface-level sexual themes. To his credit, Morgan is trying for something truly brilliant here, which makes his failure to achieve it seem like that much more of a disappointment. The dynamic between two fully-rendered human beings getting too know each other, gradually disrobing and achieving a level of intimacy . . . having that happen in a studio theatre production that plays out over the course of ninety minutes would be a lot of fun to watch with a better script, but it would take a lot more going on in the way of a basic plot than Morgan has bestowed upon Square, The level of character development and the amount of emotional and intellectual distance covered by these two characters isn’t quite enough to fill the entire frame of a 90-minute show. 

 

With the scope of Morgan’s plot being such as it is, the script could’ve been cut down from 90 minutes to a half hour and still felt a little long. In order for a play like this to work on a bigger level, there should be more nuance and texture to the story than Morgan’s allowing for here. Towards the end of the play, I was watching two very talented, young actors (both of whom have the distinct fortune of actually looking pretty good both nude and semi-nude) interact onstage. And I was actually pretty bored. This should not have happened. Square would work a lot better edited down in a program of shorts that covered similar ground in different ways. The only way to make it work as a longer piece would be to give these two somewhat interesting characters and these two very talented actors a little bit more to do in the run of a full 90 minutes with no intermission.   

KACM Theatrical Productions’ Square: A Stage Pornography runs through April 23rd at the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center

 

 

 

 

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