Review: Pocket Playhouse presents “Our Own”
The University of Oregon’s Pocket Playhouse, or “The Pocket” is a student-run organization that gives students an opportunity to direct and produce plays independently and provides many opportunities for those interested in theatre to get involved on and offstage. The Pocket produces four to six shows each quarter, many of which are original productions. Friday night marked the second performance of this quarter’s fourth Pocket play: “Our Own,” written and directed by Emiro Blom.
The play was written about “trials and tribulations” of “living on your own in ‘the real world,’” said director Blom, via email. Before the show began, he described it as a very short play designed “for our own generation.” I appreciate that concept: Live theatre is definitely losing appeal with college students, partly due to length. At just 27 minutes, “Our Own” was certainly short enough. The play itself, however, failed to deliver and left me rather confused and uncomfortable.
“Our Own” followed recent college grad Rodney and his roommate Eric over the course of a few days. The play was comprised of short, choppy, conversations in Rodney and Eric’s apartment. Karsten Toppelman and Nikki Zaretsky gave commendable performances as Rodney and as Eric’s girlfriend Annie, respectively. Both actors obviously gave a lot of thought to their physical characterization and committed fully to their roles leaving their performances were far from boring.
The entire play, in fact, consistently kept my interest. The format was interesting, and allowed for a very fast pace, but unfortunately, the writing contained little plot or character development and as an audience member, I was left pretty confused. In general, dialogue felt unnatural and stilted and though some awkward moments seemed intentional, the overall effect went too far. What was intended to be realistic and conversational came off as forced.
Beyond that was the attempt to tackle several extremely heavy issues within the very small scope of this play. In 27 minutes, “Our Own” covered infidelity, complicated romantic relationships, overdue rent and debt, domestic violence and, ultimately, suicide. These issues were thrown at the audience with little development within each scene. Conflicts and discussions escalated far too quickly and what began as a simple argument developed into throwing furniture at a remarkable pace. Opportunities for meaningful dialogue were passed up in favor of expletives and angry physicality, which might be more realistic, but ultimately does not translate well to the stage.
The plot of “Our Own” accelerated fast and as an audience member, I struggled to keep up with both emotion and comprehension. I left the theater a bit dazed and hopeless, trying to make sense of the multitude of complicated issues that had just been clumsily thrown in front of me. I do appreciate the attempt, however. With a lot more time and exposition, this concept has the potential to be a compelling piece of theatre. It’s important for our generation to experience live theatre, and it’s important to discuss the issues that “Our Own” presented. It’s even more important, though, to do so thoughtfully and carefully.
“Our Own” gives its final performance on Saturday, Nov. 15 in Villard Hall at 5 pm. Admission is free for UO students. For more information on the Pocket Playhouse, and how to get involved, visit http://uopocket.blogspot.com/ or the Pocket Playhouse Facebook page.
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