Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Secretary - Main Street Theater

The Secretary
Main Street Theater
[Left to right: Elizabeth Marshall Black as Janelle, Alice M. Gatling as Ruby,
and Bree Welch as Lorrie]

The good news is that I didn't miss Main Street Theater's production of "The Secretary", because some extra performances were added to the run. The bad news is that I saw it on the very last night, so I can't urge you to go see it this time around. (But I can urge you to go to a different performance at the Main Street Theater; they really put on some terrific productions!)

Written by Kyle John Schmidt and directed by Julia Traber, this little one-act, one-set, six-actor oddity is a satiric commentary on gun culture in our country. The theater's website description says:

Ruby runs a small-town gun company, manufacturing products like “The Bridesmaid,” “The Babysitter,” and “The Mallwalker,” But what happens when guns start going off all over town–and no one’s pulling the trigger?!!

So you can guess what "The Secretary" refers to. Hint: it's not a person.

While The Secretary is a comedy with several laugh-out-loud moments, there are serious aspects as well. The play pokes pointed fun at the way the gun lobby uses every mass shooting to push the idea that everyone should be armed all the time, including teachers, and then these things just magically wouldn't happen. It also draws strongly from, and turns on its head, the standard argument that "guns don't kill people; people kill people." But at the same time, the play does explore why a woman like Ruby might truly feel that she and every other woman out there, particularly the ones who have a violent male figure in their past or present, should have a gun. Of course, Ruby doesn't acknowledge that battered women are much more likely to die in a home that has a gun versus one without a gun, but her point of view can't be completely ignored.

Apart from the script itself, Ryan McGettigen's set for this production was a lot of fun. This was the first time I've seen a play at MST with patrons seated on four rather than three sides of the stage. Yet nobody in the audience was disadvantaged, because the actors moved and turned frequently. In addition, a circle within the square stage rotated during scene breaks and, to great effect, at the end of the play.

Acting-wise, I was particularly impressed with Bree Welch as Lorrie, based on her facial expressions and perfect comedic timing. Celeste Roberts played Shirley, the "sweet" granny-like school secretary, as effectively as she played the one-armed explorer John Wesley Powell in Men on Boats. Seriously, if there's one thing that impresses me in acting, it's range, and she definitely has it. I also enjoyed Alice M. Gatling as Ruby, Skyler Sinclair as April, and Briana J. Resa as Brandy.

My favorite performance, however, was Elizabeth Marshall Black as Janelle, the high-strung office manager who cares deeply about the people in her town but isn't bright enough to truly realize that shooting tragedies elsewhere are killing real people. The way Ms. Black's chin quivered every time Janelle was overcome with emotion made the delivery of her lines that much funnier.

Still to come in Main Street Theater's 2018/2019 season: The Weir by Connor McPherson, running from March 16 to April 17, 2019, and Relatively Speaking by Alan Ayckbourn, running May 4-26, 2019. If you're in Houston and you haven't been to MST before, go!

No comments: