The Pavilion by Craig Wright. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"There is a pain beyond hurt."
Antoinette LaVecchia; photo provided
Twenty years too late Peter apologizes to Kari for leaving her in the old-fashioned lurch. Peter wants to begin again, to set things right, straighten out the time/space continuum so that a happy ending is possible for both of them. He tries to make that happen in as many different ways as possible during a high school reunion gathering in a lakeside pavilion in Pine City, Minnesota. He even attempts to perform theatrical magic, to restart the universe and rush it through to 1999, the year in which the play has been set. On stage at the Dorset Theatre Festival Peter does his very best to make right his wrong-doing. He almost makes it work.
With this production of Craig Wright’s play, "The Pavilion," the summer theater in Dorset, Vermont begins an era of production under the leadership of Dina Janis. Her predecessor lasted three seasons offering some remarkable productions of interesting plays. Janis meets the challenge set by Carl Forsman with a triumph of her own.
This show sets a high watermark for the subsequent season. A well-crafted play, three excellent actors, a fine director and a beautiful, magical production make for delicious theater. Here we have a play that intrigues with its constant turns and changes. One actress, the Narrator, actually lays out the plan for the story to come and then joins in as a multitude of characters who interact with Peter and Kari and sometimes with themselves alone. Played by Antoinette LaVecchia, these characters in their late thirties all come vividly alive before our eyes. She has as many physical postures as she does voices and faces. Her instant differentiation of them all, male, female, married, single, lesbian, pathetic and sympathetic are beautifully drawn.
Sarah Kate Jackson as Kari has the most difficult role in terms of understanding and believability. A happily married bank employee who gave up a child out of wedlock and has never had another one, she works her way through two dozen attitudes about the man who got her pregnant and deserted her showing up at their reunion. She runs the gamut from insulted to passionate. Each turn-around leaves her facing a new direction in their relationship and while some may be hard to believe, none of them are hard to understand.
As each new revelation reaches the surface Kari becomes a more complicated individual Jackson plays with simplicity and honesty and every alteration in her character seems natural and inevitable. Even her final decision about her future seems oddly right, knowing what we now know about her life and her past.
Peter, as played by Jeremiah Wiggins, is a man tortured not by guilt so much as by a deep mistrust in his own strength and self-awareness. He has goals, set out directly in a few speeches in Act One, that are achievable in a perfect world. Sadly he has never lived in such a place and the Pavilion isn’t exactly the right choice for resolving that search for perfection. Wiggins has a softness about his voice and demeanor that almost makes it impossible to imagine his character taking the actions that would have started the ball rolling toward this denouement. Nevertheless he plays the pursuit of his dream with straightforwardness and presents a significant humility when all is said and done.
Debra Beach’s set is visually perfect for this play, as is the effective lighting by Michael Giannitti. Barbara A. Bell’s costumes could not have been better for her two principal players and the single outfit worn by LaVecchia was generic enough to allow her all the latitude she needed to be everyone else. Jane Shaw’s sound design work was sometimes confusing and too busy.
"The Pavilion" is an intriguing little drama about teenage mistakes coming home to roost twenty years later. Not exactly light summer fare, it makes a perfect statement of intent for a theater with a long history of interesting work: there will be good theater in Dorset.
Sarah Kate Jackson; photo provided
Jeremiah Wiggins; photo provided
The Pavilion plays through July 11 at the Dorset Theatre Festival, located at 104 Cheney Road in Dorset, Vermont. For information and tickets call the box office at 802-867-5777.