Thereâ€™s probably no great coincidence that the majority of plays being produced right now are comedies.Â Iâ€™m sure that, in the midst of an economic recession, something lighthearted and uplifting is precisely what audiences need.Â While filling a theatreâ€™s house, these plays might not necessarily be talked about in years to come as part of the literary canon.Â They serve less as time capsules and more as time fillers.Â George F. Walkerâ€™s latest play And So It Goes, currently playing at the Factory Theatre, steers vehemently away from the safe, predictable fare that other plays are offering, going straight to the heart of contemporary society to expose its ailments.
The story revolves around Gwen (Martha Burns) and Ned (Donald Peterson). Their son left the house years before, while their daughter, Karen (Jenny Young) is a diagnosed bipolar schizophrenic who requires the care of her parents.Â When Ned looses his job and Karenâ€™s illness increases, Gwen and Ned resort to literary great Kurt Vonnegut (Jerry Franken) for advice, solace and a compassionate ear.
To reveal what happens to these characters would be giving away a lot of this play.Â At an eighty minute running length, Walker (who also directed) packs in a lot for the audience to contemplate and everything operates quite effectively.Â The performances are very solid; Martha Burns and Donald Peterson do admirable jobs with their characters.Â Burnsâ€™ helplessness and relinquishing of control seems right for the character.Â Petersonâ€™s strong delivery of his monologue in act two lends itself to the philosophical nature of the text as he holds up a sign asking, â€œWhoâ€™s Responsible?â€Â However, most admirable in her performance is that of Jenny Young, whose Karen spirals downward in a believable and heart wrenching series of events.Â I think anybody who has seen Youngâ€™s transformation of this character has also said, â€œIâ€™ve seen this woman.â€Â It is because of Youngâ€™s honest portrayal that we sympathize with her and, subsequently, her family.
Where the play misses a significant note is in the construction of the Vonnegut character.Â While Vonnegutâ€™s own son was a diagnosed schizophrenic and the characterâ€™s involvement in the play is hinted at because of this, Vonnegut still seems a distraction from the rest of the characters and the story.Â Yes, he serves as an effective catalyst for a lot of necessary information to come out convincingly, but what Vonnegut wants out of each interaction remains a mystery.
In spite of its missteps, this is a play that is not about schizophrenia, but a play that has schizophrenia in it.Â This is not a play about homelessness, but a play that has homelessness in it.Â This is not a play about unemployment, but a play that has unemployment in it.Â What Walker has constructed is a play about 2010.
The showâ€™s been extended from Feb 28 to March 6.Â FactoryTheatre.
Photograph by ED GASS-DONNELLY