A character study delicately played out in an intimate space.
by Joel Benjamin
Bob Glaudini’s Jack Goes Boating, known mostly from its initial production turned into a film directed by and starring the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, was staged at the Paradise Factory in the East Village by The Seeing Place company in an intimate, almost too detail-filled production directed by Erin Cronican.
There isn’t much of a plot to Jack Goes Boating. It’s a character study that gradually works its way into your heart as you get to know the four characters. Jack (Brandon Walker, who made Jack’s self-doubts palpable and moving) and Clyde (a lithe, Juan Cardenas whose natural virility is overcome by an innate gentleness) are black car drivers working for Jack’s uncle as they yearn for more—more adventure, romance and meaning.
Redheaded Lucy (Candice Oden, a vivid presence), a telephone sales operator for a new age lecturer, is Clyde’s wife. She brings unassuming Connie (Ms. Cronican who managed to take her character the furthest, helped by the best writing of the play) into the mix, ostensibly as a possible girlfriend for Jack.
Jack immediately has big plans for him and Connie, like taking her boating next summer, but he doesn’t know how to swim, so Clyde gives him lessons. Fearing it will take too long to show off his swimming acumen Jack goes off in another direction: learning how to cook, step-by-step, to treat his new girlfriend to a brilliant homemade dinner.
Meanwhile Clyde and Lucy have fidelity issues of their own, maybe because—though it’s never revealed—Clyde secretly wants Connie or Lucy may have had an affair.
In the course of a number of short scenes, the lives of these four are acted out right in front of the audience—in the case of the Paradise Factory, literally within arm’s reach of the audience. Lucy hires Connie to join her selling classes, further integrating her into the microcosmic world of these four strivers.
The main problem with this production is that while concentrating on the moment to moment Ms. Cronican failed to see the whole, a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. This Jack lacked coherence and pacing and also seemed a bit under-rehearsed with lines too often recited with hesitation. To be fair, Mr. Cardenas was a last-minute inclusion in the cast which might have affected the rhythms, and, admittedly, I did attend an early performance of the short run.
I can’t deny that there were some beautiful moments, particularly between Jack and Connie as their romance developed and between Clyde and Lucy as they played Othello and Desdemona; but moments don’t necessarily add up to a show.
Ms. Cronican also designed the set and the costumes. The former cleverly divided the tiny stage area into several discrete playing spaces which included the Clyde/Lucy home, the swimming pool, the Lucy/Connie office and the occasional outdoor sites. Her costumes took everyday wear into character studies in themselves.
Duane Pagano’s lighting helped the audience to focus on the separate areas of action, while Mr. Walker’s sound design created a realistic sense of place, particularly in the swimming and outdoor scenes.
Photos: Russ Rowland
Jack Goes Boating (November 4-19, 2017)
The Paradise Factory
64 East 4th Street (between the Bowery and 2nd Avenue)
New York, NY
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit www.TheSeeingPlace.com
Running time: one hour 40 minutes including one intermission