Entertainment » Theatre

Harbor

by Joshua Smalley
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Jul 11, 2016
Kevin (Gideon-Patrick Lorete) and Ted (Patrick Gladish)
Kevin (Gideon-Patrick Lorete) and Ted (Patrick Gladish)  

convergence-continuum continues its 2016 season with its third full production: "Harbor" by Tony-nominated playwright and lyricist Chad Beguelin. The play is directed by Cory Molner, and follows a four-person ensemble of two gay newlyweds and a fifteen-year-old teenager-turned-adult who lives in a van with her slugabed mother.

Tremont's convergence-continuum has been a staple of the Cleveland theatre scene since it was founded in 2002 by Clyde Simon and Brian Breth, and has produced 76 productions to date. The company's artistic home is the Liminis theatre, a small, storefront performance venue that only seats 40-50 patrons each show (the company is currently launching a fundraising campaign to save the space, check it out at convergence-continuum.org). Audience members are fully immersed into the setting of the play, with the actors mere inches in front of you, and the sound of street traffic muffled behind you.

The company has built its space into its mission, choosing to focus on small-cast contemporary productions that use local talent and artists. Beguelin's "Harbor" is a fitting pick in this regard, since it features an intimate ensemble and had its world premiere only four years ago at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Connecticut. The play debuted Off-Broadway at 59E59 Theaters in August 2013.

In the play, Kevin and Ted have recently tied the knot and live an affluent life in Sag Harbor, New York. "It looks like a wedding cake," cries Donna, Kevin's ne'er-do-well sister, as she looks at the couple's house for the first time. Donna, and her bright daughter Lottie, have arrived unannounced to the neighborhood driving the van that they call home.

When the former calls Kevin to let him know they're nearby, he reels for excuse after excuse but ultimately bends and invites them over for hors d'oeuvres. A night of appetizers quickly becomes a three-month stay as Donna's pregnancy is revealed, as well as her desire for Kevin and Ted to raise the child. Conflict, comedy, and alcohol ensue.

"Harbor" is Beguelin's first "straight" (non-musical) play to be produced, his previous work ranging from Broadway's "The Wedding Singer" to "Aladdin." One can sense his greenness to the form, as he grapples with questions of fatherhood and the timely issue of gay parenting, but uses dialogue that relies predominantly on gay-baiting banter.

While audience members often found the quips funny at the beginning, they grew tiring as the play wore on. The plot from scene to scene was generally interesting and grabbed attention, but to those who have seen more than one four-person contemporary American play, the end displacement of the characters becomes predictable.

Like the playwright, the ensemble in this production generally felt green. Cat R. Kennedy was animated in her portrayal of Donna and often amusing, however the character would benefit from more nuance and dimension to offset her incessant selfishness.

Maya Jones worked well as her precocious daughter Lottie, bringing an intimacy and connection to the role that lacked in other areas of the production, but one still senses that each actor is a planet unto themselves, rotating in their own spheres and hardly touching one another.

The chemistry between Patrick Gladish (Ted) and Gideon-Patrick Lorete (Kevin) leaves something to be desired. Gladish works as the more believable of the two, with his character's thoughts on parenting (hard pass) and his general outlook articulated clearly and at most times, smoothly.

Gideon-Patrick's performance was at best muffled and confused, at worst bordering on insulting. Words and phrases were often inarticulate, and his "gay" voice, motions, and behavior were based on stereotype over an authentic living, breathing individual.

Set and sound design by company founder Clyde Simon was simple, but generally effective in the space. The supposed-affluence of the Sag Harbor home was sometimes wanting, and some of the play's touchy moments were underplayed with overly-sympathetic music. Lighting design by CJ Pierce and director Cory Molner worked smoothly. Scott Zolkowski's costume design also generally worked well, however there were some noticeable missteps when pants and belts could be seen underneath Ted and Kevin's towels in a bathroom scene.

Molner's direction gave a sense of the play's humor and tragedy, but there were many instances of unclear character intentions, reliance on stereotypes, and overly-noticeable actor miming that distracted from the story being told. Granted, the underlying script itself has issues that the ensemble simply cannot solve.

While at times missing the mark, convergence-continuum's production of "Harbor" entertains and feels appropriate in the current political climate of LGBT equality battles and the cultural redefinition of the nuclear family. The company has several productions still to go in its season, with no less than three world premieres by Cleveland writers. Using local talent is surely where this Tremont theater thrives, and that dedication alone makes it worth its weight in gold.

"Harbor" runs through July 30 at convergence-continuum's Liminis Theater, 2438 Scranton Road, Cleveland, OH 44113. For information or tickets, call 216-687-0074 or visit convergence-continuum.org.

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