In the program notes, Arlitia Jones describes Ruby Gold, the main character in her new play, "Rush at Everlasting" as "unapologetic, outspoken, unconventional and you d**n well better believe she gives as good as she gets."
I would have liked to see a play about that woman. But the Ruby Gold at the center of "Rush" is a sleepy cipher who doesn't give or get anything, unable to act decisively or explain why she doesn't.
"Rush" is set in Chicago during the Depression. Hard times have hit Gold, aging and single, and her unpaid live-in help, young Jade. So they contrive a loopy idea to rob an armored car making a pickup of bags of money. Loopy, but it might work if they can contain their own squirreliness and stick with the plan.
In the first long, talky act they snipe at each other and sometimes express pieces of their dreams. Jade is mainly interested in not being poor, in wallowing in "beautiful green money," and the glamor of gangsters she sees in movie newsreels.
Gold's motives aren't quite so clear. In flashbacks she interacts with a male character who may or may not be Butch Cassidy in a gold rush town that may or may not be Everlasting, Alaska. Both the realtime Gold and the flashback Gold are maybe running from something or maybe just addicted to the thrill of being pursued.
The second long, talky act puts some meat on the subjects, but not much. There are some good lines, but a lot of repetition. The action, such as it is, pokes along slowly. The one character who has a real moment of revelation is the Cassidy guy, played by Paul Schweigert. In well-wrought monologues at the end of the first act and again in the second his texts project the charm and excitement of outlawry then the profound realization that what we do incurs debts that must be paid.
There's a bit of that for Gold, played by Charity Pomeroy, at the very end. But it comes in the form of a stock device (hint: see the title of the third of Beaumarchais' "Figaro" plays) that feels unconvincing. Does she actually feel some guilt? Or is the one half of her missing heart enough to make her completely heartless? Gold is pretty much the same "withered old quince" at the end as she is at the beginning
Even less convincing as a character is Jade, played by Tiffany Nichole Greene. She's used as not much more than comic relief for most of the play, and that's a missed bet. We learn nothing about what makes her tick aside from hunger and the movies and a kind of juvenile boy-craziness. What is the desperation that causes her to commit a felonious crime? All we know is that she recklessly confuses fact and fantasy. This character has the potential to be the most interesting part of the ensemble, or at least an equal part of the package. But one would need to know a lot more about her back story and her interior life, and the script just doesn't give Greene what she needs to make that happen.
The script does contain a lot of side items that contribute little to the arc, in fact distract from it. Discussions about shooting, windy recollections about people who are not part of the plot, a jigsaw puzzle and a real dog who arrives to be petted then leaves. One gets the feeling that each of these, and other, insertions were their own short story, or perhaps elements expanded in a long novel form, reduced to wallpaper in the process of crunching it into stage form when they should have been eliminated.
The acting is quite good and thoroughly professional. Despite the shallow material, the performers managed to squeeze a few intentional chuckles out of the crowd. One did not detect, however, any gut-wrenching reactions from the opening night audience. Lauren MacKenzie Miller's evocative lighting of the simple set is cleverly effective and more dramatic than the rambling untargeted script.
In the end, this is a play that takes the cut-to-the-point obligation of the craft too lightly to be serious, yet takes itself too seriously to be entertainment.
If you want entertainment, catch "Charlie's Aunt" in its last two performances at Anchorage Community Theatre this weekend. If you want something tight and thought-provoking, the odds are good you'll find that in another Perseverance presentation, "Short Stories for a Dark Winter," readings of four new plays by Native Alaskans, at Sydney Laurence at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 17, a pay-what-you-can affair.
"Rush at Everlasting" will continue with performances Feb. 15-16 and Feb. 20-23 at Sydney Laurence Theatre. Tickets are available at centertix.net.
By MIKE DUNHAM