Friday, April 21, 2017

In The Flesh: Let's Live A Little at Invisible Theatre is a Mouthful That Rewards, Challenges

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 5:05 PM

click to enlarge Sam Scarborough (Jack Neubeck) tries to convince his granddaughter Lily (Lucille Petty) to stay in town and help out at his florist Shop while Lily has dreams of moving to NYC to become a writer! - TIM FULLER
  • Tim Fuller
  • Sam Scarborough (Jack Neubeck) tries to convince his granddaughter Lily (Lucille Petty) to stay in town and help out at his florist Shop while Lily has dreams of moving to NYC to become a writer!

There’s a little gem of a play now treading the boards at the Invisible Theatre. Kathleen Clark’s Let’s Live a Little is the last show of the season, and it’s a lovely way to end Invisible Theatre’s 46th year.

The show tells several stories, related in some ways, although often quite generally. Their chief connection is their location in the small town of Mine Hill, New Jersey. Their lives often intersect in a glancing way, say, like most of ours do merely because we reside in the same country, or are all members of the human race. We may share dentists or find that we were born in the same city, or that we all struggle to survive, and for us who are lucky enough not to have to worry about where our next meal is coming from, to survive with a modicum of grace.

Lily is a college-aged woman trying to figure out how to extricate herself from the small town, but not leaving her granddad, who's struggling with issues of aging, without help in his florist shop. Granddad is married to grandma, who is also on the inexorable journey to decrepitude. Their daughter (and Lily’s mom) is trying to take care of them by lining up in-home caregivers. The candidates, although related only by their candidacy, are part of other stories Clark weaves into her play. She touches on themes like how we perceive ourselves and how we can free ourselves from those perceptions to blossom (like the flowers in granddad’s shop?) in ways more to our liking; how we can dig deep to commit to the things we want to do; how less is more; how we compromise ourselves but find that we can be reawakened in surprising ways; and just another little idea: how we need, quite literally, to write our lives.

Clark’s play is a mouthful. It’s probably too much of one. Although it’s plotted well—Clark knows what she’s doing as a playwright—she gives us so much that we are overwhelmed. She offers us multiple ideas to chew on, but not much time to chew them. It’s akin to one of those hot dog eating competitions. There's a lot to absorb in only 90 minutes. Consequently, sometimes things feel contrived or overly sentimental or way too obvious as she tries to stitch everything together. The seams show.

Generally, we are always glad that a playwright challenges us. We’d much prefer too much rather than too little. But finding that balance is tough.

The Invisible Theatre does a good job here. Not only is Clark’s script a mouthful, her twelve characters all sharing space on IT’s tiny stage is some strange magic made possible by director Susan Claassen along with scenic designer James Blair. The entire cast is quite good, including Jack Neubeck, Molly McKasson, Bree Boyd, Kathleen Erickson and Lucille Petty. Some scenes sag a bit, but generally it’s a very entertaining evening.

Clark has had a long-time association with IT, and this script was developed with IT’s help. Now, Clark will continue to revise it, to tweak it, to let it breathe, because a script is, after all, an organic thing. Maybe what Clark will discover is that her ideas and her characters need more time to develop, to stretch out. Or maybe they need some whittling. Who knows? In the meantime, we can certainly laugh and ponder and enjoy what we are so generously offered here.

Let’s Live a Little
Presented by Invisible Theatre
Various times through April 30
1400 N. First Ave.
$32 with some discounts available
Run time: 90 minutes with no intermission
882-9721; invisibletheatre.com.

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