TROY - The characters in “100 Years” start out being disagreeable as there not much to like about any of the four central characters. By play’s end you might not like them, but you do feel for their situation.
That’s a tribute to the work on stage and the playwright Richard Dresser who keeps you emotionally off-guard throughout the two-act play.
The reverse might be said about the play, which is being given its world premiere by Troy Foundry Theatre at 500 Federal Street in Troy.
“100 Years” is a play that is difficult to dislike. Indeed, it’s loaded with funny moments and tender emotions. But, strangely, in a relatively short time after attending it, you’ll probably remember the characters, but forget the details of the play.
“100 Years” takes place in what the play calls “Soon. Very soon.” Two couples, one middle-class, the other very rich, are at an expensive, experimental clinic for some rare treatment. It’s not revealed until near the end of the play the purpose of the treatment, but the secretive process adds an ominous feel to the proceedings.
Eventually, the secretive nature of the treatment turns into a negative. The playwright teases the audience to the point where the mystery fails to be dramatically effective. Part of this disinterest comes from only being shown glimpses of the world outside the center. There is no big picture of the suggested apocalypse.
There are hints: bugs that eat through tables, insects forming precise formations and aggressive birds with intellect. But, for the most part, the characters exist in a vacuum which denies the play danger and tension. Odd to say, for a play that fears for the future of humanity, it’s strangely lacking high stakes.
One couple is older, the other are just at the end of their child-bearing years. In a play about the future, the issue of replenishing the earth is extremely important. For that matter, the concept of wealth, the power it offers, and what it takes to accumulate a fortune is also important.
Throughout, the play is filled with timely issues. Indeed, one might argue there are too many issues being addressed and that the play’s central crisis is addressed in a manner too science fictiony to have an impact. In lesser hands the play could come across as “The Bickerson’s Visit Jurassic Park.”
Thankfully Troy Foundry is not lesser hands. Director Elizabeth Carlson-Guerin understands that Dresser, who has a gift for creating eccentric characters and placing them in exaggerated situations, always writes about relationships. And, though you may find the plot of “100 Years” a bit frail, the interactions of the couples with their mates and with each other is what gives the play its resonance.
The cast is excellent. Each performance is spot-on, but more important each actor finds something in their character or a situation beyond what is on the printed page. A glance, a pause, an expression or a reaction often reveals more about a person than does a line of dialogue. And they capture the abundant humor that exists within the play.
Kevin McGuire is an acerbic Raymond - a wealthy, emotional savant, who makes a line seem funny without punching it. His wife Helen is played with delicious passivity by Noa Graham. My only wish for the doormat Helen is that her transformation at play’s end might be a little more selfish.
Colleen Corcoran is a delight as the outspoken, aggressive Joan and Keith J. Conallen is appropriately insecure as her fence-sitting husband, Stevie. Though he doesn’t appear until the second act, Jared Manders almost steals the show as an ironic, fey lab supervisor.
It’s a badge of honor for Troy Foundry to offer all their productions in non-traditional spaces. “100 Years” is presented in a genuine office space at 500 Federal Street in Troy. Unfortunately, the choice adds little to the production. A generic set, a space with poor sight lines and uncomfortable metal chairs depreciate rather than add uniqueness to the effort.
“100 Years” is a well-performed, thoughtful play that raises a lot of questions but offers few solutions for a future that seems inevitable. I only hope that when it arrives, it’s as funny as Dresser portrays it.
“100 Years”, produced by Troy Foundry Theatre continues Thursday through Sunday at 500 Federal Street, downtown Troy. For tickets and information troyfoundrytheatre.com
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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