Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Terry Tempest, Guns, No Roses


Terry Tempest, Guns, No Roses

The Magnetic Theatre
Terry Tempest: The Final Interview by Jamieson Ridenhour
Through March 25, 2017, at Magnetic 375, 375 Depot Street, River Arts District

What's that old adage about not bringing a loaded gun on stage in the first act unless it's fired in the second act?

Asheville playwright Jamieson Ridenhour teases us with not one but two loaded guns in the first act of his new play Terry Tempest: The Final Interview, now at the Magnetic Theatre through March 25. Waiting to see when and how they get fired, and by whom and at whom, is one of the charms—and there are many—of this entertaining dark comedy.

Terry Tempest is not exactly a locked-room mystery, but Ridenhour does lock three characters in a hotel room with those guns and keeps us eagerly anticipating the inevitable fireworks. In this case, tempers as well as firearms explode.

Olivia (Hayley Heninger) is a recent journalism grad on her first big assignment for a rock-and-roll magazine in New York. She's scored an interview with a notoriously interview-averse punk rocker, Terry Tempest (Cody
Magouirk). It's arranged by his manager, Joey (Pasquale LaCorte), without his client's knowledge.

Terry needs to restart his artistic life after a reclusive and troubled fifteen-year dry spell. Joey needs to restart Tempest's royalties.

Olivia's friend Stacy (Carrie Kimbrell Kimzey) tags along because they've been Tempest fans since they were teenyboppers.  Left alone in Tempest's suite at the Plaza Hotel, the two women giggle and gawp at the star's  memorabilia and even take swigs from a hip flask Stacy finds in a drawer. They also find what they call "the most famous hat in rock and roll." They've reverted to full screaming teenybopperhood, despite Olivia's reminders that she needs to stay professional.

As played with lots of brio by Heninger and Kimzey, Olivia and Stacey are annoyingly endearing. Or is that just annoying? The director, Rodney Smith, allows them to veer a little too far for credibility into Lucy and Ethel sneaking into Cornel Wilde's penthouse suite. Finding the right tone for dark comedy is always tricky.

Ridenhour knows how to pack in a lot of plot and a lot of character backstory. And he knows how to unpack it all in good Ibsen fashion, dropping hints and revealing family secrets. Olivia, Stacy, and Tempest are all haunted by tormented pasts. For the rocker, it's the death of a female bandmate. For the women, it's difficult relationships.

And Joey has his own reason for locking these three in together. It's the hinge for the final revelations and a finale that is both hilarious and harrowing. It's Sartre's No Exit, via Joe Orton, as played by the Marx Brothers.

The playwright really knows how to plant plot signposts along the way. Remember that drawer where Stacy finds the hip flask? Well, remember it. The most famous hat in rock and roll? It's a funny gimmick to get the girls offstage so Tempest can make his (much-too-long-delayed) entrance in the first act. And it's the set-up for a punch line that goes off late in the second act.

Sometimes Ridenhour stuffs so many plot, character, and thematic plums in his pie—feminist empowerment, abusive families, abusive boyfriends, low self-esteem, teenage angst, artistic burnout, curmudgeon with a heart of gold—he's in danger of becoming Little Jack Horner.

Occasionally he has to jump through hoops to explain some of his plot points. Seriously unconvincing is why a hotel room door can be locked from the outside. But without that door, his plot can't get going.

It doesn't help that set designer Kehren Barbour's door looks so flimsy Tempest could give it one good kick and they could all go down and enjoy a drink at the Champagne Bar, now that the Oak Bar is closed. An elegant Plaza suite gives Barbour a challenge she can't easily meet on what is no doubt a limited budget. Something more suggestive and less literal might have done the job.

Still, the audience happily goes along for the ride.  Ridenhour never forgets he's writing a comedy, and he keeps quips and one-liners arriving with Neil Simon regularity. 

The director, Rodney Smith, is giving Terry Tempest a spirited, if uneven production.
Magouirk has such a strong stage presence we can ignore an accent that wanders from Memphis to maybe Liverpool and other points in the British Isles. At one point Pasquale drops his Damon Runyan-Broadway Danny Rose shtick for a glimpse of Joey's real desperation. And if Magouirk, Heninger, and Kimzey strain too much for laughs, they have quiet moments that hint at hurt souls. 

This ensemble is having a good time, and so are we.

Comments? Email: awengrowresearch@gmail.com 

Photo: Rodney Smith@ tempusfugitasheville

No comments: