A Blessing in Disrepair

Florida Stage's Thief River turns a burning conflict into a tepid drama

Michael MacCauley fares better as middle-age Gil. At least he has a clear objective -- to get Ray to go away with him. He must also contend with his jealous young lover. But MacCauley doesn't get much further than sad-faced longing with Joseph Adams, who plays middle-age Ray. Like McNamara, Adams doesn't appear to be struggling with anything like passion. David Bailey, as the older Ray, suffers from the same thing. There's not much going on between Bailey and John Newton, who plays the older Gil. But Newton manages to explicate Gil's decades-old resentment, which is based on the fact that his life has been casually hurt by Ray's inability to make up his mind about their relationship. When Newton as old Gil lets old Ray have an earful, it rings true. But there is no more sign of heartache or lingering love for each other in these two grumpy old gay men than can be found in their younger counterparts.

It is significant that all six actors fare better when they are playing the supporting roles. This suggests the lack of strong directorial vision in creating these two characters; how could six actors pull off such a task if not for a strong guiding force? Sadly, Tyrrell's direction of his actors manages to be both fussily choreographic and unimaginative. The director's hand can be seen in the dialogue, which is quick and carefully scored. But no characters seem to listen, and there's little life on the stage. Tyrrell's physical staging is repetitive and dull. Characters seem to gravitate to downstage center, staring out at the audience while turning their backs to whomever they are addressing. Everyone seems compelled to exit upstage right, only to stop and turn back in the doorway. The bare, wooden stage set by Paul Owen doesn't help. An upstage scrim reveals a cornfield panorama at times during the show, but this area pushes most of the action to a flat forestage. Neither the actors nor Tyrrell seems to know what to do in this Shakespearean-style space.

Gil (Michael MacCauley) tries for some real love from Ray (Joseph Adams), but no go
Gil (Michael MacCauley) tries for some real love from Ray (Joseph Adams), but no go

Details

Through December 2. Call 561-585-3433 (in Palm Beach County) or 800-514-3837 (outside Palm Beach County).
Florida Stage, Manalapan

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With so inert a production, the question of whether Thief River is a significant play remains unanswered. Certainly, it offers wit, poetry, and at times considerable heart, and it deserves better than its current production. Florida Stage may yet offer a better production of Blessing's work. Its second show of the season, Blessing's Black Sheep, a world premiere, follows in December.

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