The Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Lady offers some topical drama in a play about friendships at a crossroads.
By Kay Kipling
From its opening moments, prefaced with a riff from a Dire Straits song, the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s production of Lady has great energy and some snapping dialogue, from playwright Craig Wright (who’s also written for television, including the shows Six Feet Under and Lost). It also asks some interesting questions about politics, friendship and what happens to us once we’re grownups. Its references to the war in Iraq and the current White House administration may render it too topical for a long shelf life on the stage, but for its running time of 70 minutes or so Lady is gripping enough to engage us right now.
We first meet two of the three characters on a hunting trip in the woods (represented, I guess, by a rather dull plywood-looking set that had a serious malfunction on opening night, necessitating a brief unplanned intermission—the play itself has none). Kenny (David Breitbarth) is the likeable, slightly stoned member of a longtime trio of friends who wants to keep peace between the other two: history teacher Dyson (Douglas Jones) and the last character to arrive, Graham (James Clarke), a Democratic Congressman they helped get elected who has now become more of a Republican in his leanings.
Douglas Jones, James Clarke and David Breitbarth in the Asolo Rep’s Lady.
For Graham, everything about America and its role in the world changed with 9/11; for Dyson, the war is a huge mistake and one that may soon involve his 18-year-old son, who decides to join the Marines after hearing Graham talk about the need to fight. So the stage is set for confrontation among these three buddies, who’ve known each other since they were children and who once survived a night lost in the woods together.
That word “lost” reverberates throughout Lady, for it’s a play about lost ideals, lost direction, lost friendship, and, most concretely, Kenny’s lost dog, Lady, who plays a crucial role. There is real tension in the air, and some very real language (for those who need to be forewarned) as Graham and Dyson face off against each other. The actors, under the direction of Hal Brooks, spark each other’s changing moods well, and there are moments both funny and dramatic as Lady unspools. If the ending leaves us slightly unsatisfied, it may be intentional, for nothing is meant to be too neatly resolved here.
Lady continues through June 1 in the Cook Theatre; for tickets call 351-8000 or go to asolo.org.