Charlotte Stay Close: Proof meets Love & Other Drugs
Charlotte-* Jenny Soo
Kathryn-* Alana Dietze
Dustin-* Andy Shephard
Writer- Christine Hamilton-Schmidt
Director- Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx
Proof: The relationship between two sisters is strained as the successful sister finds it difficult to say goodbye to her dying sister. There is also a boyfriend that says and does all the things he shouldn’t.
Love & Other Drugs: A terminally ill woman whose life is falling out of her hands, whilst a man who is in love with her struggles to give her up. The dialogue of treating the terminally ill woman’s sickness with such candor is both funny and refreshing.
'Charlotte Stay Close' is a new play written by Christine Hamilton-Schmidt. The play centres around the titular character who is dying of terminal cervical cancer and has returned to her hometown to die. She is visited only by her sister Catherine and brother in law Dustin. We find out that they are going through marriage counselling which we discover when they start their sentences with "I acknowledge..." and "I'm sorry that...". This is a perfect example of gifting the audience with exposition without simply telling the backstory of the characters.
Andy Shephard does a wonderful job playing a helpless, simple guy desperately looking for answers in the wrong places. He starts out very likeable but then some of his decisions really make you question the morality of the character. One moment in particular will leave you wanting to scream “DON’T DO IT”.
Charlotte is portrayed by Jenny Soo as having this bubbly upbeat energy which is unexpected coming from someone so sick. The audience grows to love her and is sad with her impending passing.
I felt Alana Dietze gave a muted performance as Catherine. I believe it was a choice by the actor to make the character self-contained as a way to cope with the losing of her sister and the falling apart of her marriage.
The writing is hyper modern and reminiscent of a Greta Gerwig mumblecore movie. As a lover of 90s culture, I enjoyed the references to True Romance and Madonna, though if I hadn't seen Katherine's iPhone and the DVD, I would simply have assumed it was set 20 years ago. There were moments when the actors flowed seamlessly with the writing and other times when the beat changes felt somewhat disjointed.
One of the more interesting moments of the play was the discussion of promiscuity. Whilst Catherine and Dustin, being high school sweethearts haven't been with anyone but each other, Charlotte was extremely promiscuous and now has cervical cancer. Although the two aren’t related, the playwright makes Catherine poke fun at the melancholic irony.
Performed in the Round at Est/LA, there is very little room for the actors to work but they utilized the space well, shifting the hospital room bed strategically, so any obstruction for the audience was short-lasting. The biggest difficulty of performing in the Round is having your back to the audience but the actors made sure at least one person was in eyesight for each audience member.
There were a lot of tonal shifts within the play. The flickering lights and sound design gave off feelings of horror whilst most of the time it came off as a dark comedy with severely dramatic and twisted moments. There was some level of discomfort watching the married couple bicker and fight at the death bed of the sister. The dialogue also made me think of the work of Neil LaBute, an expert at writing about regular people behaving despicably.
There is a scene towards the end where Charlotte speaks to her mother in a dream state. But there was something missing from this moment to connect it to the rest of the play. If it was played a little lighter than dead serious (apologies for punnage), it might have felt more connected to the rest of the work.
Overall, I enjoyed how ‘Charlotte Stay Close‘ made me feel a wide range of emotions. Although, at times it felt somewhat jarring, going from z generation speak to brutal cutting words.
The play will be running Fridays & Saturdays, 8pm and Sundays, 2pm through to 10/27/19.
*The night I went, the show was performed by Cast A. There is a Cast B which they alternate performance days with.
Go see this show!