There’s no question about it, romantic comedies are predictable and overdone. Our media entertainment, be it theater, film, or television, is flooded with them. That’s just one reason why a completely unromantic comedy like Melissa James Gibson’s This at Seattle Repertory Theater is such a welcome breath of fresh air. The fact that the play is wonderful in its own right is another.
This follows the story of four old friends and one very confused outsider as they struggle to deal with unfortunate romantic choices and their consequences. In a single word, the show would perhaps best be described as ‘efficient.’ It would be very difficult to find a wasted moment in the entire eighty-five minutes. Even the pauses served very specific purposes. Undoubtedly, this effect was a combination of excellent writing from Ms. Gibson and superb direction by Braden Abraham.
One particular dramatic element was used to great effect in this show (and that’s not even supposed to be a pun): foreshadowing. Far too often, foreshadowing is clunky and obvious; not so in This. Gibson’s writing means that a number of seemingly inconsequential events came back later in the play with greater meaning. No one in the audience realized foreshadowing was taking place, but looking back after the fact it all made perfect sense.
The acting in This was simply fantastic. Each actor conveyed their character beautifully, investing the audience in every second. Particular appreciation goes to Nick Garrison in the role of Allen. It is difficult to pick a favorite out of such a talented cast, but Mr. Garrison’s natural comedic talent set him apart. That said, each actor had their chance to shine. Cheyenne Casebier as Jane performed a monologue near the end that was extremely poignant. Hans Altwies succeeded in making what might have otherwise been a detestable character sympathetic. April Yvette Thompson played the jilted wife perfectly, and Ryan Shams delivered the best reveal of the entire play.
If there was one fly in the ointment, it was that This didn’t hit its dramatic notes quite as well the comedic ones. Not to say the drama was bad by any means, it just didn’t quite match up to the funny stuff. That’s about the only criticism this reviewer could come up with.
This is definitely worth seeing for theatrical neophytes and veterans alike. Gibson’s work is new and inventive, the kind of writing that a few decades from now could be thought of as a classic. In keeping with its tradition, the Rep has created an excellent show that is a fine way to spend an evening. This runs until May 15, and tickets are available here. For anyone who sees the show and enjoys it, the Rep’s next play, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs promises to be quite a treat as well.