Writer: Joseph Scott Ford
Director: Kelsey Claire
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
The opening scene of Not Even the Good Things feels like contemporary realism. A couple arrives at a vacation rental in the Catskills, flirting and dodging important conversations as one person becomes belligerently drunk and the other tries to corral her. Oh, but wait, there’s also a dirty young girl carrying a candle around and watching everything transpire, and nobody seems to be able to see her, until a sole living character realizes her presence. Transcending the kitchen-sink drama for millenials, this play brings into question what it means to be haunted, and both people and places can hold the energy of unfinished spiritual business.
Joseph Scott Ford’s script strikes a compelling balance between comedic and pensive, never naming outright that catalyst for Bill (Sea McHale) falling into a depression and losing his faith. Though the why of it all piques curiosity, the lack of an answer serves the play more than any expository divulgences may. The problem is not what came before, but is what happens here and now. The past is going to follow you around anyway, so it is more important to learn how to move forward rather than retrace one’s steps.
A stellar cast, under the capable guidance of director Kelsey Claire, shines and gives tangible groundedness to Ford’s characters. McHale in particular carries the production with wit, charm, and vulnerability. But each member of the cast brings a specific facet of shine to the show, digging into the ugly and unlikeable choices some characters make (particularly Victoria Janicki as Grace). Not even the Great Midtown Blackout of 2019 affected this performance, which started late and was evacuated immediately after curtain call. The commitment to the present moment and the immediacy of the stakes are unfaltering in this play.
The design team for Not Even the Good Things shines in providing a tangible, realistic world off which the supernatural elements ricochet beautifully. Oscar Noel Fitzpatrick’s well-considered costumes and Alexander Le Vaillant Freer’s expertly ambient lighting showcase strong on a stunning set, whose creator this reviewer sadly cannot name , as it does not appear on any publicity materials or in the play’s program.
Not Even the Good Things is a short play, seventy-five minutes with no intermission. But quality is not sacrificed for the sake of brevity. While nothing is ever treated as precious, it is also never glossed over. The play happens at the speed of life… a haunted life at that, but really, aren’t they all?
Runs Until 27 July, 2019 | Photo credit: Maria Baranova