Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: Benchmarks

Goethe Institut-Gallery

Remaining Performances:

Saturday, July 20, 12:45 p.m.

Sunday, July 21, 5:30 p.m.

They Say: "Dialogue and flashback vignettes provide a peek into the lives of two men struggling to break free from the pain of their pasts."

Rachel's Take:
It's two old guys on a bench, talking about their pasts. Frank (David Berkenbilt) and Melvin (William Powell, Jr.) are veterans of wars in Korea and Vietnam, respectively, and they meet to feed breadcrumbs to the birds and talk about what haunts them, from the wars and from family life. Berkenbilt and Powell are low-key and natural, never forcing emotion, and they have an easy rapport that makes you believe that closed-off Frank and lonely Melvin would share so readily the major, painful events of their lives with another guy on a park bench.

Their pasts are illuminated in flashback, with Tramaine Stevenson and Cristen Stephansky appearing as the wives. They don't get much to do beyond react to their husbands, but Stevenson brings so much light and joy to the stage that you understand how lost Melvin might be without her.

But the flashbacks are of the same events Frank and Melvin had already narrated to us, without more detail to illuminate the characters, and the repetitiousness makes little sense in a show that only runs 35 minutes (of an advertised 60). Melanie Fiona Bevell-Jackson's first script could do with more show, less tell, and particularly less tell-then-show-the-same-thing-over-again.

There is a beautiful message about surviving pain in order to someday tell a friend "I've been there, and I got through it," when that's what he needs to hear. A more fleshed-out script would allow the show to get there more subtly and organically, but it's a good message all the same.

See it if: You wonder what those old guys on benches are talking about, or you have another show to get to in an hour.

Skip it if:
You like your heartbreak histrionic.

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