This weekend, Pioneer Theater Company rolled out the world premiere of Jeff Talbott’s new play called, diminutively, i. It’s a play about, well. See, now we’re already in trouble. This is the tricky part about talking about a play with plot twists. I’ve already kind of ruined it by telling you that there are major plot twists. You’re like, “What twists? What’s this about twists I’m hearing.?” So I’m going to slow down and just say that i, in general, is a play about dating, a play about dating with major plot twists! Ah jeez. I did it again.
Staring over. i is a play about dating, later-in-life dating, dating with baggage. It’s also about memory and how it plays tricks on us (like major plot twists!) and loss and recovery, oh, and codependence. Lots of codependence. So there’s a boy, Jake Bellamy (Todd Gearhart) and a girl Sarah Cooper (Kathleen McElfresh). There’s a meet-cute, a charming banter-full date on a park bench and … not to spoil anything, but Kevin Spacey is totally Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects.
But let’s not go messing up anymore than I already have. Is it any good? Well. Hmm. It’s interesting, which is how you describe a first date that didn’t go so well, right? I mean, I like this play but do I like, like it? I suppose the biggest problem with i is that, like its title, i just isn’t big enough. It’s a small play, a talking play, a park-bench play. It has lovely nuances, excellent dialogue and feints and clever turns of phrase. I love all that. I really do. It’s totally what I want in a play but I’m just not sure I’m ready to get serious here.
OK. OK. If do you want the truth i? I just think that you belong in a smaller theater. There I said it. You belong in a black box, maybe downtown at Plan-B? Look, I’m just being honest. That’s what you asked for right? It’s just that I have seen Pioneer Theatre Company’s season so far and it’s hard to go back after that. I just want more, that’s all. Yes, yes, yes. Of course, Paul Tate DePoo III’s magical shoji screen set was so, so great. But, really. After Bright Star? I just can’t live like this.
Also, since we’re being honest, I sort of basically didn’t really like both of your principal characters. Not that they were badly acted. McElfresh really convinced me she was a self-absorbed middle-aged woman running from her self. And Gearhart totally sold his role as a thin-skinned, stalker-ey, middle-aged guy. In support, Colleen Baum as Sarah’s mom, well, gosh, she’s lovely. I always like her so much. She’s great. Please give her my love. Virginia Cooper, who is basically the play’s ensemble, has some magic hair that can seemingly change style at will and solidly backs up these two main narcissistic codependents sparring their way through modern-day dating life.
So let’s not ruin it. We had our moment i. It was special. You gave me a lot to think about, you kept me interested. There were good times, sure, like that scene in the restaurant when you literally made a scene in a restaurant. But in the end, I just need something more out of a Pioneer Theatre Company Production. Really. It’s not you, i, it’s me.
The first-ever run of Jeff Talbott’s new play i, continues at The Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, on the University of Utah campus through March 3, 2018. For tickets and showtimes go to here.
P.S. Rosebud was his sled and How To Serve Humans is a cookbook.