Brian P. Murphy and Brian McManamon

Brian P. Murphy and Brian McManamon

Brian P. Murphy and Allison Daugherty

Brian P. Murphy and Allison Daugherty



Review by Sonia Roberts





In Jake Jeppson’s The Clearing, Chris (Brian P. Murphy) and Les (Brian McManamon) are brothers who frequently return to a clearing at the top of a cliff (beautifully designed by Daniel Zimmerman with vast trees whose branches seemingly go on forever into the grid) to catch up with one another and vaguely talk about the past in a way that definitely lets us know that something’s up. We find out that secret is someone named “Daniel” from their childhood, whose ghost Chris occasionally sees and is horrified by, which, we think, is the reason for both his recent breakup and his strangely obsessive hold on Les. Meanwhile, their mother, Ella (Allison Daugherty), still suffers from being abandoned by her husband many years ago and spends her time worrying about her sons and, more recently, bonding with Les’ new photographer boyfriend, Peter (Gene Gallerano), who also serves as the story’s narrator.


The Clearing is an intriguing story, but quickly loses us by disclosing that there’s a big secret way too early in the play’s exposition. In turn, the play moves slowly with a big dark cloud over its head, as do most of the play’s characters, allowing little room for the actors to explore much multidimensionality. The non-linear structure of the script attempts to speed up the pace, but is hindered by too-long transitions and melancholy music that disrupt the story’s flow and only add to the foreshadowing of something big, bad, and shocking that’s bound to come.


Gene Gallerano and Brian McManamon shine as Peter and Les, respectively, and Jeppson develops their relationship realistically and thoroughly. Gallerano brings an effervescent lightness and ease to Peter, much needed to break up the gloomy tension that plagues the other characters, and McManamon’s deadpan apathy lends well to Les’ few but well-crafted funny moments. Brian P. Murphy’s performance, as the hot-tempered, possessive Chris, is uneven, but mostly impeded by the lack of specificity surrounding his character – Chris seems more than emotionally stunted, but it’s never clarified in the script nor through Josh Hecht’s direction. Therefore, many of his actions don’t seem justified, such as the rudeness he directs towards his mother and the physical closeness he so badly needs from his brother. Allison Daugherty brings an understated nakedness to Ella that has nothing to do with her somewhat unnecessary (and perhaps also unrealistic – how many middle-aged women would so easily shed their clothing for their son’s significant other, even if he were a gay photographer?) nude scene, but even so, who she is (apart from her sons and ex-husband) never quite comes to fruition.


The Clearing is a multifaceted story with great potential that could go far with some tightening, fine-tuning, and character development, and perhaps gain power in a more intimate theatre that doesn’t overwhelm the action.

*Photos: Hunter Canning


At Theatre St. Clements

Through February 9th

Tues-Sat @ 8p

Sun @ 3p