by Beki Pineda
WHAT YOU WILL – Written by Jeffrey Neuman; Directed by Warren Sherrill. Presented by Benchmark Theatre Company (1560 Teller, Denver) through December 22. Tickets available at 303-519-9059 or benchmarktheatre.com.
Warren Sherrill in his Director’s Notes ruminates on the meaning of “the institution of marriage” and what customs or practices govern our concept of marriage. How many people go into a committed relationship understanding what that commitment really means? In thinking back to the characters and instances within this production, I began to ponder the definition of guilt and what it means within the confines of a relationship. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” Too bad that wasn’t tattooed on somebody’s butt before they started the action of this play!!
WHAT YOU WILL is almost like a rom-com. Boy #1 meets Boy #2 in a steam bath and flirts unabashedly. Funny goofy exchanges of information. Nothing much happens except Boy #2 is made uncomfortable by the unfamiliar signs of seduction. Then Boy #2 goes home to HIS HUSBAND and Boy #1 returns to his GIRLFRIEND. Someone left this cake out in the rain and he’ll never have the recipe again.
The twisted tale of torment takes off from there. We meet the girlfriend and the husband, get to know all the parties and wonder how this is all going to work itself out. Three out of the four characters are lovable and good with each other. It’s that toxic fourth you have to watch out for. It is too much fun to watch this story unweave to spoil it for the first time watcher by telling too much. Be warned – you will have strong feelings of the “woulda – coulda – shoulda” type before you walk out of the theatre on this evening. There was a moment of possibility of the socially redeeming sort that could have changed everything. But the one who “shoulda” backed away and set the path for a future inevitable “woulda.”
All of the characters are written in a manner that lets the audience connect and visit their inner fears. The actors – Maggy Stacy as a bright and bouncy bride to be, Steven Burge content with his lot in life until he isn’t, Casey Andree whose confusion extends into other people’s lives, and newcomer Tom Littman as the actor in the tech week from Hell – make their respective characters jump off the page and breathe life into the story. Director Sherrill keeps the confusion out of the way and strings out the mystery as long as possible.
Charles Packard’s multi-layered set encompasses a steam room complete with steam, a small boutique paper shop, a comfortable living room, and a rehearsal stage without getting in each other’s way. Quite an accomplishment! For a brand new script, Mr. Neuman’s words were natural, left no gaps in logic, and followed a complicated plot line to its unfortunate end. Researching “guilt” led me to another quote – this one by Bob Marley – “Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”
A WOW factor of 8.5