Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Tough But Admirable "Six Years" at Caldwell

“Six Years” Admirable, Tough at Caldwell Theatre

By Skip Sheffield

“Six Years” is a production to be admired, not loved. The heavy-hitting drama by Sharr White continues through Sept. 4 at Caldwell Theatre Company, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
The title refers to the six-year-intervals of the play’s five scenes. Scene one is set in 1949 in a St. Louis motel. Phil Granger (Todd Allen Durkin), a dazed and confused World War II veteran, has returned to his distraught wife Meredith (Margery Lowe). Meredith is distraught because Phil simply disappeared in 1944, when he stopped writing home. Phil never told Meredith where he was or what had happened to him.
Phil has a really bad case of what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Back then he would been labeled “shell-shocked.”
While the couple has been reunited, their relationship will never be smooth. Phil has a volatile temper and severe mood swings. Meredith has filed preliminary divorce papers.
The role of Phil is a challenging opportunity, and Todd Allen Durkin runs with it in his Caldwell debut. He can be charming and funny one moment, acidly sarcastic the next, and frighteningly furious without warning.
The role of Meredith is much less flashy. Mostly it is that of quietly suffering, but Margery Lowe conveys real pain, and when she finally begins to stand up for herself, we feel her pride.
Other roles are more sketchily drawn. The Grangers’ son Michael (Michael Focas) is hardly there; a casualty of war if you will.
Meredith’s brother Jack Muncie (Gregg Weiner) has some short, powerful moments of interaction with unpredictable Phil.
With their marriage in shambles, two additional characters are introduced into the Grangers’ marital drama. Tom Wheaton (David Perez-Ribada) is only too happy to provide a shoulder to cry on- and more- for Meredith. Dorothy (Betsy Graver) is a seductive character who is shocked witness to one of Phil’s scariest breakdowns in a California motel.
Director Clive Cholerton uses video projections and vintage recordings to depict the five different eras. Tim Bennett’s set utilizes a turntable to enable quick, smooth scene changes.
“Six Years” is mostly about bad stuff: war, mental instability, infidelity, cruelty, divorce, the rise of cookie-cutter suburbs and even the effects of bad diet. In short it is a lot like real life, and real life, as most of us know, is never a picnic.
But if you are looking for thought-provoking commentary, heartfelt acting and historical reference, you should find much to admire in “Six Years”
Tickets are $38-$50. Call 561-241-7432 or go to

Friday, August 19, 2011

Same Time, One Day

If You Love Love, You’ll Love “One Day”

By Skip Sheffield

A lot can change in one day. In the romantic comedy “One Day,” two college graduates meet on St. Swithin’s Day, July 15, and have an impetuous fling that changes their lives- but not right away.
St. Swithin has no bearing on University of Edinburgh graduates Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) other than it is a funny name reference in David Nicholls’ novel “One Day.”
Nicholls adapted his novel and tapped Danish director Lone Scherfig (“An Education”) to helm this project. While the story somewhat resembles the play “Same Time, Next Year,” there are important differences. This is not about an affair. It is about friendship that blossoms into love.
The fact that Scherfig is a woman with subtle sensibility helps balance the equation. “One Day” is equally about man and woman, and how they love.
On that fateful graduation day July 15, 1988, Emma and Dexter meet. She is a serious-minded scholar with big Harry Potter wire-rim glasses and minimal makeup. He is a glib, handsome, frivolous playboy type rather spoiled by his doting mother (Patricia Clarkson) and a gruff but loving father (Ken Stott).
Even when she is dressed-down, Anne Hathaway (with convincing British accent) is a radiantly beautiful woman. Jim Sturgess is a remarkably good-looking guy, so they make an appealing couple. When they impulsively make love on the night they meet, we intuit this will be more than a one-night stand, even though the morning after in the glare of day they vow to “just be friends.”
And so on July 15 over the course of 20 years, Emma and Dexter meet and part again and again. Her trajectory is upward. She becomes a teacher, then writes the book she has always been threatening to do.
Dexter’s personality and good looks make him ideal for television. For awhile Dexter’s career and finances soar as host of his own vapid, glitzy TV show.
Emma acquires a determined admirer in Ian (Rafe Spall), an aspiring comic who works a day job at the same restaurant Emma works.
Ian is a fool, but he is played with great dignity by Spall, and Emma is such a compassionate person, we can see her befriending him out of pity.
But we the viewers and readers know Emma and Dexter are destined for each other. When they meet in picturesque locales such as Paris and Calais, the mood is rapturous. Guided by Scherfig, Hathaway and Sturgess make us feel the giddy elation of love. Conversely, we feel love’s flip side, the depths of despair.
“One Day” is a first-class weeper. It is also an ideal date movie. I suggest seeing it with someone you love. You may just get lucky.