OfftheMap

 

Mental health is a very heavy subject. In Off the Map, Joan Ackermann tackles several aspects of this complex issue with loving care and respect. This is a subject that can make one feel uncomfortable but the journey of self-discovery in this play is fascinating.

 

The narrator of the story, Adult Bo (Kate Weber), takes us back to a summer when she was 11 years old. She lived with her father, Charley (John Foughty), and mother, Arlene (Paula Stoff Dean) in New Mexico.
 

The younger version of Bo (Julia Monsey), is your average pre-teen. She is a sponge which absorbs every bit of information around her and acts on that information without caution. She is concerned for her father – a Korean War veteran – who is dealing with deep depression. Her mother is a free spirit and does her best to hold to family together.

 

George (Matt Hanify), a friend of the family, helps Arlene out by going to see a therapist in hopes of getting a prescription for medicine to help Charley's depression.

 

Then there is William Gibbs, (Bob Nickles), an IRS agent dispatched to investigate why Charley and Arlene have not filed their taxes in several years. When William arrives, he falls ill and recuperates under the care of Arlene, He then becomes infatuated with her and confesses his love for the matriarch of the family.

 

The story is engaging and complex much like the characters themselves. Ackermann does a wonderful job in developing each of her characters and their flaws. While the dialogue may seem overly complex at times – mainly during the narrator's monologues – there are plenty of laughs as well as very serious moments.

 

Being someone who has dealt with serious bouts of depression, I instantly identified with Charley.

 

Foughty did a wonderful job in capturing the hopelessness and fog of depression as he appeared nearly catatonic throughout the first act. That may seem easy for someone to do, but each of his movements were precise and weighted. I recognized that vacant look on his face and the monotone vocal delivery. My gut wrenched as he delivered the line, “I don't have any tears left in me.” Well played Mr. Foughty. Well played.

 

Equally impressive was Stoff Dean in her role as Arlene. She did a brilliant job in capturing the frustration of not being able to “fix” her husband. Her performance was engaging and completely genuine. She led this cast to a successful performance as she commanded the stage with her presence.

 

Weber's performance as Adult Bo was a mixed bag for me. She had a charming delivery, but her movements seemed forced. There was a couple times she bobbled the lines, but I am not sure if that is her or the playwrights' fault. As I said earlier, the dialogue seemed overly complex and that may have made it difficult for Weber to get out her lines.

 

The only performance I didn't fully get on board with was Monsey as the younger version of Bo. What the young actress needs to learn is how to deliver her performance, not just recite lines. That being said, I do see potential in Monsey – she just needs time to develop and I hope to see her again in the future.

 

Technically I need to give kudos to Set Designer, Mark Wilson, and Lighting Designer, John “JT” Taylor. Both did a great job with their attention to detail.

 

I also enjoyed the rapid pace of the production. The short scenes kept the show moving and kept me – who has a short attention span – thoroughly engaged. There was one scene in particular that impressed me:

 

Charley came out center stage and started putting on his shoes. He found a rock that he initially disregarded, but then after a moment of contemplation he picked up the rock and put it in his shoe. While no words were said, I appreciated the fact that he was able to convey the fact that he was willing to put a rock in his shoe just so he could feel something. It was probably the shortest scene in the play, but it held the most weight for me.

 

The West End Players Guild theater is my favorite kind of theater. I love the “in your face” type of atmosphere. The intimate theater allows the audience to be close enough to feel the passion on stage.
 
I also love how smaller theaters like this can take a risk on a production of this type. But then again, this production kicks off the company's 104th season.

 

Let that sink in for a moment – 104th season.

 

Kudos to the WEPG for their continued success and to this cast for kicking off the season with such a wonderful production.

 

For more information on ticket prices and show times, visit westendplayers.org. Off the Map plays thru Oct. 5, 2014.

 

You can follow me on Twitter @ReviewerJim!

 

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