‘Normalcy’ comes up a measure short

29Oct15

by Mark Sardella (Wakefield Daily Item)

normalcy2

If there’s one thing that A Measure of Normalcy, the relentlessly manic 90-minute play by Lucas Baisch could use it might be a measure of normalcy.

The play runs through Nov. 1 at Gloucester Stage, and it was written by Baisch, the theater’s 2015 Playwriting Apprentice. Normalcy follows an array of lost souls as they interact in a Midwestern mini-mall.

Nineteen year-old Casey Calloway (played by Lydia Barnett-Mulligan) works the burrito stand while her cousin Ari (Sara Elizabeth Bedard), clad in a Beavis and Butthead t-shirt, traffics in hallucinogenic gecko feces.

normalcy3Duncan (Eliott Purcell) is a balloon artist who wants to be a rap musician and Ms. Leland (Ellen Colton) is the crazy bag lady who lives in the women’s room of the mall. Gus (Gabriel Graetz) is the new hire at the burrito stand who has recurring dreams of being chased by a sentient TV box.

Casey confesses to Gus that she believes herself to be a cartoon character, “Cowgirl Casey,” and she does slip in and out of the cartoon world with some regularity. The play attempts to use cartoon conventions and devices as the characters try to deal with such weighty questions as “What is reality?” and “What is normal?”

normalcy4Indeed, all of the characters are intentionally cartoonish in their own way, from the fast food worker to the wannabe rap artist to the crazy lady who spouts pearls of wisdom.

After one of this season’s earlier plays at GSC, it was observed that in theater, silences can be every bit as eloquent as the spoken dialog. There are no silences in “A Measure of Normalcy.” The play exhibits flashes of brilliance here and there but the nonstop dialog is as rambling, confusing and hyper as a soliloquy by a meth head. At some point, it’s OK to take a breath, but this play never does and the result is exhausting.

It’s understandable for a young playwright to want to experiment and take risks, and hopefully with age and experience will come a greater sense of what works and what doesn’t. It’s not necessary to include every idea that’s ever popped into your head.

normalcyIt’s unclear if cousin Ari’s selling hallucinatory gecko feces is intended as a way to explain the characters’ intermittent cartoon states of altered consciousness. It’s certainly not necessary to spell everything out for the audience, but at times, “A Measure of Normalcy” even seems ambiguous about its own ambiguities.

The performances are fine across the board. Unfortunately, by the time the climactic moment arrives, the audience is apt to be too confused to know what the stakes are and too tired to care.

A Measure of Normalcy runs through Nov. 1 at Gloucester Stage, 267 East Main St. Gloucester. Purchase tickets online or phone 978-281-4433.

A Measure of Normalcy, by Lucas Baisch. Directed by David R. Gammons. Costume Design, Chelsea Kerl. Set Design, Courtney Nelson. Production Stage Manager, Meagan Alyse Passafume. Lighting Design, Allison Schneider. Sound Design, Davis Wilson.

[This review originally appeared in the October 27, 2015 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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