In the Summer Pavilion
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
August 13, 2011
In the Summer Pavilion, a drama by Paul David Young, focuses on three good friends who are celebrating their graduation from Princeton at a summer place in Maine. The drama begins in the titled summer pavilion with Ben, alone with his thoughts and still youthfully uncomfortable in his own body, arguing with himself about the merits of living in the present rather than planning for an uncertain future.
Clarissa, glowing and looking for fun, finds Ben in the pavilion and tries to lure him back to the lively party. Nabile, a confident young man who exudes Middle Eastern wealth and charm, soon joins them. He brings a bottle of vodka laced with LSD, which they consume. It is not long before Ben kisses Clarissa; simultaneously Nabile approaches them, embracing Ben from behind, kissing him; then Ben slips out and Nabile and Clarissa are kissing. Is this really happening, or is this the LSD talking? Edginess pervades this 70-minute drama, focusing on the vagaries of the future and the fear of not measuring up to expectations.
The playwright has written smart characters and arms them with lyrical vocabulary, challenging arguments, and insatiable demands as weapons against their competition. Of course, they are each other’s competition. The play’s structure is a series of fantasies, where they try on a number of professions and life styles, measuring themselves against each other.
Kathy Gail MacGowan directs the superb cast with a firm hand. Meena Dimian is suave and resourceful as Nabile. His character is first to step up to the plate in the pavilion and announce, "Let the games begin." Is this the game of life? Who among them will be winners? Nabile is a gambler and comfortable with the odds he’s been dealt. He is a world traveler. Clarissa, played by the lovely Julia Taylor Ross, grows from earthily appealing in the pavilion to elegant, sharp-tongued, and unapproachably elite. Ryan Barry plays Ben with all the insecurities of a recent grad, unsure of what he wants and where he will go.
The scenes unfold like snapshots in different parts of the world with rotating love interests. But, the play ends as it began, with Clarissa finding Ben, awkwardly alone in the summer pavilion, softly persuading him to join the party.
Kia Rogers's lighting is downright magic. In one scene, Ben’s right eye looks positively evil. Sound designer Kristyn R. Smith employs artful transitions between scenes. This is an unusual play that requires some thought. It’s worth seeing.