Staged reading examines star-crossed love
At the vulnerable time when your closest friends are landing dream jobs, getting engaged, and finding their great purpose in life, Sam's girlfriend Gwen leaves him. This linchpin causes a downward spiral as he loses sight of his own hopes and dreams. Placeholder Players explored Matthew McLachlan's play Orion March 23rd - 26th in a spirited staged reading.
Jake Konrath and Emily Keiner. All photos courtesy of Adam Harrison.
Following their summer staging of Heathers: In Concert, Placeholder Players is establishing themselves as a delightful space of art for art's sake. This is a place where artists can gather to create and share something fun, with lower commitment and stakes than pursuing a full production. The result feels remarkably community-driven.
Director Mary Seigel pushes the staged reading genre outside of the box. Audiences are never simply watching actors with scripts and music stands. Dynamic entrances, exits, and blocking lift the text so far off the page that it is only when scene directions are read out loud that you are reminded of the bounds of the medium. Performances are larger than life - perhaps, a bit larger than necessary in Inspiration Studios' intimate space, but a welcome compensation compared to the traditional, dry alternative in a reading.
Amber Weissert and Joshua Biatch.
Although the story is centered around the fallout of Sam and Gwen's breakup, the spotlight in this production falls onto their best friends, Scott and Abby. Joshua Biatch's performance as Scott dissipates preconceived notions on college men's friendships and instead weighs in with deep affection and care.
Amber Weissert brings comical delivery to the max. As Abby, she uses her full vocal range, from gruff depths to whiny heights, which turns the character into an unpredictable fountain of energy. The biggest laughs trace back to Weissert, which then makes it especially sweet when Abby's genuine side shows through.
Jake Konrath as Sam.
The script itself has only been produced once before. It has a lot of potential - there are some vulnerable moments that really examine the complex emotions around navigating long-term relationships - but McLachlan's perspective weighs down on the women in the play. The story nearly wraps around to a self awareness, when the protagonist Sam notices the unreliable narrator in his ex girlfriend, but doesn't look inward at his own tendencies to villianize Gwen.
That said, the performance by Placeholder Players is warm and fuzzy in all the right ways. The pace leaves space for humor and introspection. The tender turn from drama into romance makes the characters' butterflies a shared experience. This staged reading brings all the good vibes of a full production, which only makes you wonder what they will be capable of if and when they begin creating full works.