Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Mike and Morgan Show

Photo/Aaron Epstein

It's been three years since Mike (Brian Miskell) lost his best friend, Morgan (Emma Galvin), but at last, he's coming out of his fugue--by writing himself into a play in which Morgan's still alive, appropriately called The Mike and Morgan Show. It's not wishful thinking, at least not in the hands of playwright Raphael Bob-Waksberg; it's wistful thinking, drama-as-catharsis. Nor is it self-centered to the point of isolation--quite the opposite, for Mike wants us to love Morgan, too, so that he can justify the depths of his funk. Thankfully, Galvin is all the excuse one needs to be indulgent; from the moment she steps on stage ("Yugga yugga, Mike!"), a crass, tomboyish ball of fire, we're in for a treat.

Or at least, we would be, if it were just The Morgan Show; instead, the narrative is stiflingly rigid, locked into Mike's repetitions and neuroses (his Jewish parents, you might say, follow him around throughout the show) and too aware of its self-referential structure to build up momentum. (In fact, the play reaches a powerful conclusion about forty-five minutes in . . . and then continues for another thirty.) Lacy Post's direction struggles to resolve the give-and-take between Mike and Morgan; the set itself, which is just a bunch of meaningless lamps strewn around the stage, is an example of Mike; scenes in which the two decide to remake a bad memory as an old-school detective film are examples of Morgan.

The more energetic The Mike and Morgan Show gets, the easier it is to overlook its flaws. For instance, the build-up is often cleverer than the resolution, and some of the reveals come out of left-field (like much of the second season of Friday Night Lights). While it makes sense that the second half of the play will be more tragic than the first, given Morgan's ultimate, inescapable death; it's just unfortunate that Bob-Waksberg feels the need to slow down and strip away his winning wit in order to do so. "I'm not ruthless," says Morgan, "I've got plenty of ruth." In that light, The Mike and Morgan Show is sweetly romantic (though sadly, a bit too platonic), but too reck--that is, not reckless enough.

No comments: