Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Directed by Sean Daniels
Review by Craig Idlebrook
(Lowell, MA) At any point in the year, there are dozens of small theatrical troupes of two or three actors crisscrossing the country to perform at schools or community centers. They perform plays you have never heard of in places you’ve never heard of, and the only way they do their job is to take the absurd situation they find themselves in seriously.
There is a strange bond that forms between those who do mediocre art for a living, especially on the road. In “The Making of a Great Moment”, we pluck two such thespians from obscurity as they slog through a tour of a two-star play about innovation in human history. Not only must these two actors play on makeshift stages to tiny crowds, they must bicycle to each town to do it. This short and sadly forgettable play (three stars, tops) gives audience members the chance to be a fly stuck to the bike helmet visor of the two actors and watch artists grind through their jobs and attempt to find meaning in their art.
It is evident that Mona Barnes (Aysan Celik) and Terry Dean (Danny Scheie) have forged a strong working bond as they’ve peddled endlessly for their craft, but life on the road doing the same play day in and day out is wearing thin for them. A chance blackout during a performance causes Mona to improvise, and this breaks her out of the doldrums. She begins to want more from her career. This makes Terry uneasy, as he has spent a career of not thinking too deeply about art; he just likes doing it as much as possible. The two come to an almost literal crossroads and must decide how to proceed.
Celik and Scheie each create broad characters who are full of energy and a joy to be around, at least most of the time. Sadly, the story needs something more to hold our attention, and I found my focus sagging like the popped tire that causes the final argument between the two actors. Ultimately, it feels as though the script is either a few rewrites away from being a full-rounded play, or a few edits away from being an hour-long short. Still, this play settles in as a largely entertaining road tale that dabbles into the blood, sweat, and tears of artists who work in obscurity.