Friday, November 27, 2015

Review of Griffin Theatre's Pocatello

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Pocatello. It was written by Samuel D. Hunter, and it was directed by Jonathan Berry. It was about a man named Eddie (Michael McKeough) who was the manager of an Italian chain restaurant in Pocatello, Idaho. Their business is not doing very well and they were in danger of closing. But Eddie didn't want that to happen and decided not to tell the employees--Isabelle (Allie Long), Max (Morgan Maher), and Troy (Bob Kruse)--that they may be closing. Also, he is gay and his mom Doris (Lynda Shadrake) doesn't seem very happy about that. And his brother Nick (Sam Guinan-Nyhart) is married to a woman Kelly (Nina O'Keefe) and has a good steady job, and his mom loves that, but Nick isn't very nice to his family because he doesn't think it is possible for them to be a good family again. There is another family that also has fallen on bad times: Troy and his wife Tammy (Mechelle Moe) and their kid Becky (Becca Savoy) and the Grandpa Cole (Sandy Elias). This play is about family, forgiveness, and blame. I thought this was a very good show with amazing acting. It was sad and depressing, but still good. It made me think about why people aren't happy sometimes even when the people they love are near them.

When you walk in to the theater and see the set (by Joe Schermoly) you feel like you've stepped into the Italian restaurant that you drive past all the time but never go in because the whole thing looks bland and boring. I liked how there was supposedly another room that you never saw, just like when you are actually in a restaurant and you are just sitting in that room and you don't know what is going on in the other one. They also had a lot of overlapping dialogue, where you would have to pay attention to one conversation and then you would have to pay attention to the other. And that made you feel like you were actually there in the restaurant. There was also a speaker (sound designer Bradford Chapin) that sometimes wouldn't work and it would keep skipping lines of the songs. It wasn't an actual problem with the speaker; it was a choice for the show that I thought was really great. It made it seem like a really crappy restaurant. And also made you see how people's feelings for each went on and off over and over again, like in Eddie's family and Troy's family.

There were a lot of things that you at first thought were stereotypes in this show, but then you see they are not. Like Becky, who you think its going to be the classic rebellious teenager. But then she wasn't really rebellious. The things she had done to get suspended from school where not really rebellious. She just showed pictures of a subject of history in history class that were too gory. But history is gory sometimes. Even your life is gory sometimes. So you can't just hide the truth from everybody. She also throws up everything she eats so that seems like a eating disorder but she's really just worried because she doesn't know where her food comes from. It's more about her guilt about animals and plants and people working hard for not much money. Nick seems like a classic successful business man, but you find out the terrible things that have happened to him with his family. That makes you realize why he is working so hard to be successful. Nick wants to have a normal happy relationship with his wife and work a well-paying job, because his original family didn't have those things. And he wants to have everything his first family didn't have. I thought it was really cool that the playwright made it seem at first like some characters were just classic but then he showed you that they were not.

This is sometimes a very sad and depressing show, but there are also funny parts to it. It can't just be all depressing. Theater is about telling a story not just about making people feel sad or feel happy. It is about telling a story with ups and downs just like real life is. And that was what this show did. It was funny when Max and Isabelle were caught doing basically all the things you shouldn't do at work, in a kitchen at the same time! Don't they have cars or something? And they also tried to explain how it was ok, but the way they try to explain is so funny and dumb, because there is no way these things they are doing are ok in the kitchen at work! Funny things can also lead into sad things. Eddie made a Cheez Whiz casserole and that is funny because it sounds so disgusting. There is broccoli in it too, in case I forgot to mention it. I do like broccoli, but not with Cheez Whiz. Can you imagine the calories! But then that is something their father used to make in the diner, and something really bad happened to their dad, so now they are all sad about the casserole. I think it is a really cool technique to do something very funny and then punch you in the face with sadness.

People who would like this show are people who like Italian restaurants, not-really-rebellious rebellious teenagers, and Cheez Whiz casserole. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is such a beautifully sad and depressing play, with little snippets of fun hidden inside. Just so you know, you'll leave this play wanting Italian food because the food they eat at the end looks pretty good.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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