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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

Tricks: a new play by Lloyd Schwarts

Or: The Very Model of a Modern Family Module

It may seem odd to you dear reader why a writer of Schwarts’s pedigree (co-founder of the Storybook Theater, toiler for Gilligan's Island and the Brady Bunch) would choose to premiere his brand new work at Boise’s own Stage Coach Theater. It may seem equally odd to you that the story he has chosen weaves such themes as adolescent angst, gay rights, and the present dangers of the Oldest Profession into a drawing room farce. It may seem odd, dear reader, but that should not halt you from sauntering down to the theater to see what they make of it.

Vernon Chase (Layne Taylor) is in a quandary. His lover has recently died under tragic circumstances and he is looking for an opportunity to write a novel worthy of his lost love. He takes a job babysitting Addie Briggs (A.B. Kelly) a precocious twelve year old, and discovers that Addie’s mother Louise (Tabitha Musser) makes ends meet by “tutoring” a never ending line of eccentric “pupils” (Shane Turner) who show up at all hours of the day, lusting after her...instruction. Vernon finds himself growing closer and closer to Addie and Louise, and must take drastic steps in order to prevent social services, in the person of Miss Lewendowski (Sam Hansen), from tearing mother and child apart.

Now if that sounds a little to edgy for you, take heart! The play is filled with zingers, double entendre, and slapstick in fine farcical condition. If that sounds too shallow and zany for you, take heart! It punctuates these skirmishes of wit and bouts of bawdy humor with examinations of those stripped of their voices, and those with uncertain futures. The story always has another surprise up its sleeve, and gives good mental meat to chew on.

The cast mold themselves well to the roller coster ride of a play, tackling comedy and tragedy with hardly a break in stride. Kelly runs the gauntlet of expression back and forth, from arrogance, to grief, to the impotent rage of the young. A good start for so young an actor, and we hope to see more of him in years to come. Hansen also rides the swell of the play with ease, her staccato voiced social worker transforming from a prim and bristly busybody to a ravenous and very real threat to Addie and Lousie’s happiness. Taylor relishes his moments, of both wit and wisdom, and augments them with a highly mobile and lively expression as Vernon, a secret keeper to so many, edits his words at lighting speed, looking to delete anything that might shatter the delicate harmony he has built.

The play is young yet and there are some wrinkles yet to be ironed out. A lot of dead air can lie between the lines at times which might be excised or channeled into the “dawn of realization” as these unlikely hearts come closer and closer together, but these are minor matters that will be tweaked and smoothed away throughout the run. Once embarked with, Tricks provides its audience with plenty of opportunity for tears, laughter, and thought, and until the very last it holds us in its embrace.

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