Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
By Steven Drukman
Directed by Alexander Greenfield
Review by Craig Idlebrook
(Lowell, MA) Sometimes, you get the sense in the opening minutes that a play is going to be so bad that you steal yourself to feel sorry for the actors. It is a testament to the professionalism of director Alexander Greenfield and the cast of Going to See the Kid that I didn’t cringe much for them onstage as they crisply worked with the material they had, but the script was just as cringe-worthy as I had feared.
Even before the first stereotypically accented lines were uttered on stage, I had no chance to suspend my disbelief. While the play was set in 2001, the striking set prominently featured sections of a Boston Globe sports story from 2016, an unfathomable oversight, or at least a very strange and unexplained artistic choice, that pulls one out of the action on stage.
It was mostly downhill from there. The plot barely rose to the level of 80’s sitcom – a pair of Globe reporters from different sections of the paper are thrown together to travel to see the ailing Ted Williams for some kind of feature story. Ellis (Veronika Duerr) is a South Side fighter of a young reporter looking to get a staff position in the sports section, while Simon (Joel Colodner) is a wafty veteran who has made a career writing about the finer arts. Along for the ride David (John Gregorio), Ellis’ good-natured husband.
This premise carries so many pitfalls, and few are avoided in this production. First, it is inexplicable that The Globe would send a cub reporter down to do a feature on the notoriously recalcitrant Williams, especially in the final days of the life of this legendary sports legend. Globe sports columnists would have been slitting each other’s throats to get that assignment. Second, the pairing of Ellis and Simon too obviously creates a culture clash between Cambridge and the South Side, with more than a little homophobia thrown in for good measure. Finally, a road trip is a terrible thing to stage, and usually involves actors sitting in chairs and looking ahead, a recipe for low energy moments.
With the premise set, we are subjected to a series of stereotypical confrontations between Ellis, Simon, and every other colorful character we encounter on our way down to Florida. Through it all, Ellis is set up to learn something about collaboration, while Simon is set up to be smarmy and learn very little. Plot points, from cancer to 9/11 are thrown in at some moments and discarded at others. In the end, we learn that much of the flimsy central conceit was one big con.
It is with this in mind that I must say that I guiltily enjoyed myself for more than few moments during this play. There were laugh-out-loud beats, and the action on stage, though unbelievable, was energetic. In the future, you could almost see this creative team making something really special onstage, and describing how they came up with it during a trainwreck of a production.
One can hope there will be some future artistic value to viewing this play, at least.
We have elected a tangerine ass-bugle bigot with scrawny hands, thin skin, and terrible hair to the office of the President. The theatre community has every reason to be scared that the national budget for the arts will be slashed. It will be. Certain republicans tend to disrespect experimental, avant-garde, or simply new art. If it challenges the white, straight, hetero status quo, they tend to be against it. New things frighten them with their difference. Belts will need to be tightened. For the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating your art despite this painful bullshit. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. Please keep fighting the good fight. – KD
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