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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

The Size of the World

Or: You Can't Go Home Again

A man of charisma, loquaciousness and determination young Peter Hogancamp (Matt Edmonds) has returned to Passaic, New Jersey to make his name as a motivational speaker on the art of motivational speaking. In his quest to hook his wagon to a star, stretch himself out to fit the frame of his dreams and become "A man representative of a representation of a man" he takes lodgings at the residence of Stan and Vivian Merkle (Sandy Elias and Mary Poole), an odd couple, in every sense. Though Stan has difficulty dealing with the excitable young man, and Vivian has her own reasons for pulling Peter and his fantastic dreams into her home, both are given front row seats as the young man's mind starts to spin itself apart.

Charles Evered's play is a mini death of a salesmen with a healthy garnish of farce; a comedy of communication. Peter never listens to anyone but the siren call of his destiny and his own coveted logic, Stan understands nothing but his own rock solid views of the world, Vivian skipping between the two parallel narratives, while rowing about in her own skiff of memory. Sadly the play never surprises us; in its weightier moments,it does pick us up and carry us along like the great wheel of fortune, ponderous and moving, but little more. The comedy operates like the old classic "Who's On First" but never quite getting to the punchline. It's like watching two flints being hammered together, a bit repetitive after a while but with the occasional spark of wit or wisdom.

Perhaps it's something in the timing of the play. Though truly a story about trying and failing to correct the mistakes of the past, Evered chooses to drive the the action on Peter's entrepreneurial schemes and in a country still drinking the dregs of the 2008 recession the story of the young business person taking a leap of faith and hoping to crowd surf on the market rings a little hollow. Fortunately there has never been any time when stories about people "relying on the kindness of strangers" or even "the kind relying on the strangeness of others" hasn't made good drama. Poole shows herself adept in both narratives, possessing a childlike enthusiasm and earnestness in visiting happier times and participating in Peter's which can drop away in a hearts second when Vivian takes serious work to hands.

This same balance of comedy and tragedy is also readily seen in Edmonds. When he's not pinging around the Merkel's kitchen, shouting like an expy of Glengarry Glen Ross, he performs more interesting mental acrobatics of trying to keep his plans shiny and the ghosts of his past at bay. One sees in his performance the same face of Wile E. Coyote running off the mesa, flying so long as he doesn't look down.

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