“Thank You for Loving Me”… Guns Don’t Kill People, Relationships Do!

By Ernest Kearney — There are seldom any survivors when a relationship crashes and burns, just those who walk away maybe a little wiser. That is essentially what Scott Langer’s Thank You For Loving Me, which played during the 2019 Hollywood Fringe Festival, tries to offer.

August (Langer) and Bobbie (Ashley Fountain) are on the last day of their six-year relationship, the “come and get the rest of your crap” day. The encounter is full of recriminations, repeated servings of “he said/she said” remembrances, the expectant eruption of “cold feet,” and a thin slice of hope. Hope that maybe these two individuals will have learned from the car wreck of passion, which they have just endured.

The performances here are all solid. Langer and Fountain are sincere and painfully believable as the young couple about to re-enter the black hole of single-hood. Sam Quinn as the slacker best friend Sean is sincere and “slackerfully” believable.

It is Langer’s script that is both frustrating and problematic.

Frustrating because it is constructed of moments rooted in a firm reality and full of dialogue that never falters into lame clichés or artificial romantics; problematic because the promise of the piece never translates into a payoff.

There is a definite feeling of “been there/done that” to this piece.

My friend Steve Vlasak, an excellent writer himself, was at this performance with me, and he framed the fault of this work best; “It feels less like playwriting and more like reporting.”

This work does come off like a slice of life, and it, like the journey of the piece, is circular and boasts a very narrow circumference.

That the playwright has thought about the incident and not the meaning of the work is reflected in the flaws of the piece.

First is the character of Sean. Regardless of a fine performance by Quinn, the character itself is hardly more than a cameo and the justification for it is tenuous at best.

Director Jon Cody Andersen shows strong work in guiding the performances, but he is unable to sidestep the inherent pitfalls of the piece, especially the sporadic interruptions of the flashbacks, whose presence in a work this short requires rethinking or elimination.

That Thank You for Loving Me is not lacking in merit should be apparent in the length of this review, otherwise I could have just written “It sucks” and left it at that.

The dialogue and character work here shows that Langer has an ample amount of talent. But talent can suffer when not matched by equal portions of reflection.

Perhaps Langer was satisfied with showing these characters to an audience. But that is the art of portraiture not theatre.

Theatre is in its essence the encapsulation of a journey that illuminates a lesson.

The nature of that lesson doesn’t matter: a moral, a warning, a principle, a belief, a judgment, an opinion – take your pick.

But an audience leaving a theatre must carry with them the sense that they are taking away something they didn’t have when entering.

Langer does tag on an ending to the work in an attempt to show that the characters do walk away from this encounter with some fresh knowledge, but it is only that: “tagged on.”   It does credit to Langer’s writing that this sore thumb is not more noticeable.

But he cannot hide the frustration with which one leaves this production.

Audiences want to see those characters they watch on stage learn something, or they want to learn something themselves. Leaving a theatre with neither is frustrating.

Langer in placing too much emphasis on the event of the play and not enough on the eventuality of its central Silver Medal (via The TVolution)encounter makes this reaction inevitable.

For my final review of a Hollywood Fringe Festival 2019 play:

A SILVER MEDAL.

 


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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest’s stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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