“The Joy of Going Somewhere Definite” continues Salt Lake Acting Company’s proud tradition of doing odd, interesting plays.
Written by Quincy Long as a radio play, “Somewhere Definite” retains the use of sound effects (impressively performed by David Evanoff and Melissa Gessel) while the actors pantomime their props. The stage and costumes are simple, so you could close your eyes and not miss much — the dialogue and sound effects tell you enough.
That by itself is pretty cool, though not enough to carry a show on its own. Indeed, a few of us found ourselves distracted, looking at the sound effects artists instead of the actors because we wanted to see what objects they were using to create the sounds.
Fortunately, the play is intriguing on its own merits. Three out-of-work loggers (William C. Moore, Don Glover Jr. and William Stockholm) are drunk off their butts in a bar in dead-of-winter Minnesota. They find a guy drunker than they are (Tom Vick) and decide to take the semi-conscious guy home with them. Through a series of acts fueled by alcohol and stupidity, the stranger winds up shot, half-frozen and almost dead — even though the loggers are honestly trying to help him.
They track down the guy’s wife, who has apparently left him, in a convent, where they utter some truly offensive and blasphemous profanities. (I’ve watched about 100 plays in the last 18 months, and I’ve never heard anything like this.) Marie (Kristin Louise Kahle) agrees to talk to her husband — not that he’s really capable of speech at this point — because she sees how earnestly the brain-dead loggers want to save the stranger’s marriage. In the end, things get pretty screwed-up — not in a farcical, silly way, but in a painfully real, dreary kind of way.
The main characters are drunk for 95 percent of the play, which prevents any real character development. The sole exception is Harvey Keitel look- and soundalike Raymond (William C. Moore), who winds up making a pass for the stranger’s wife and revealing a few things about his past. The lack of development doesn’t prove to be a problem, though, as we are amused by them enough to watch them, even if we don’t know who they really are.
The play is occasionally a comedy, and structured like a very dark one (accidentally shooting an unconscious man HAS to be played for laughs, or the audience will revolt). But it has serious moments, too, especially in the second act, when the theme is revealed. That theme, as best as I can figure it, is that people will go to extraordinary lengths to attain lasting peace, even though lasting peace is more or less unattainable. Cheery, no?
Not that this is a depressing play. On the contrary, it’s entertaining and interesting. You look on in bemusement, fascinated at what you’re seeing. In the end, one feels satisfied, even if one isn’t quite sure what to make of it all.
OK, I didn't get this play. I just didn't get it. I don't know what the point was, I don't know what the message was. There was religious symbolism, but I don't know what purpose it served. It was clear that there WAS a point; I just don't know what it was. And I wasn't alone: Other critics said more or less the same thing.
SLAC seems to pride itself on doing shows with a lot of swearing. There's usually homosexual content, too, although this play was lacking on that point. It's always an adventure when we go up to SLAC.