by Mary Hubert
Scotto Moore has written and directed six productions at Annex: one late night, four mainstage, and one off night, all largely centered on science fiction. He is drawn to the speculative quality of science fiction, he says – it provides an alternate model of reality. So why the deviance?
Balconies, the story of two very different people, each hosting a party, who have only adjacent balconies in common, is more romantic comedy than sci fi. When I asked him, he said that he had recently felt science fiction was limiting him – he wants to do something different every time he does a play, and needed to branch out into other genres in order to satisfy this itch. This time, he was interested in making something accessible, with a big build throughout the entire piece in the style of Peter Seller’s “The Party”.
With all of this in mind, I sat down to watch Balconies.
I immediately noticed the set: clever hints of vastly different lifestyles through glimpses of interior décor effectively set the mood for two clashing personalities. Posters of X-Men hung crookedly from the left apartment’s orangeish walls, while on the righthand side, a perfectly manicured potted plant sat on a tasteful table against white walls. These details set the stage – literally – for a night of situational humor.
On the whole, Scotto’s deviance from his comfort zone was successful. I found the script to be cheesy but entertaining – moments of exposition caused it to drag in the first half of the first act, and the gaming conversations tended to get a bit old, but generally it zinged along fairly enjoyably.
Some of the worst over-exposition occurred in the beginning of the play, when characters were congratulating others on what they had done for the game they created – they threw titles and facts about each other willy nilly in an unnecessary attempt to make each character have a back story. The effect was falsity rather than illumination.
This was exacerbated by some distracting over-acting, which seemed to be a common problem with these actors. While their acting might have worked perfectly on a larger stage, in Annex’s intimate space it felt forced. However, despite these moments, the script’s clever quips kept the audience relatively engaged, with the odd moment of unison laughter.
The characters also shone, specifically the gamers. Scotto portrayed each nerd and over-excited gaming fanatic in a realistic but endearing way that hit the quirks of the type spot on – as a former teenage gamer, I found myself laughing in recognition at behaviors and lingo.
The plot was rather fluffy, typical of what you’d expect from a romantic comedy. The “What else could go wrong?” build was cleverly achieved with only a few minor hiccups through an increasingly absurd party, but the plot itself wasn’t anything special.
Where it shone was in its snappy one-liners and seemingly offhand comments that had me guffawing. References to Seattle-based and generational humor – one particularly hilarious comment about Cameron’s Burning Man storage unit got me for a full minute– were welcome sparks of uniqueness in an otherwise relatively generic boy-meets-girl storyline. They gave me a decided idea of Scotto’s wicked sense of humor.
Despite the show’s rather slow start, by the end, I was right along with the now-lovable characters as they navigated the new relationships built amongst the tatters of one hell of a rager.
The bottom line: Scotto’s clever comedy, while falling relatively flat in plot and acting, manages to save itself in truly brilliant moments of comedy that felt relevant and unique. Steel yourselves for some dragging moments and bad acting, but go check this show out – if only for the hilarious jokes that you’ll keep repeating long after it’s done!
Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company, the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.