Choices, choices, and more choices. Choices surround everyone, and good choices mostly lead to good rewards and bad choices to bad ends, but sometimes even the best choices lead to no rewards or bad endings as well. And each person, having free will and living in a free society confronts choices on a daily basis. What he or she does with them remains an individual perk.
For Harry, a recovering alcoholic, in The Last Temptation of Harry, at the Just Off Broadway Theater during the Kansas City Fringe Festival, the team of William Skar and Nathan Bowman crafted the show from a suggestion made by Roderick Duplissie for a story about Harry. Duplissie conceived the idea to mix of The Midas Touch and the Biblical water in wine story. Bowman, one of the authors perceived the story as a mix of and a bar where a guy can’t seem to get drunk, and the Jim Carey movie Bruce Almighty type of story where a woman meets God and God basically explains reality to her. From there, The Last Temptation of Harry developed. Several minds plus several ideas married and voilà, The Last Temptation of Harry emerged.
Harry, can’t seem to catch a break. He’s a recovering alcoholic with over four years of sobriety, but finds himself in dire need of a drink. He’s ready to throw caution to the wind for just one drink, but as he picks up his drinks, they turn to water. The more he drinks, the more water he gets and the more sober he remains. Others around him get the benefits of the alcohol, but the spirits are wasted on the hero.
Is this a miracle? Is this God-inspired? Is it Devil-enhanced? Does he have free choice? Is free choice taken away when God or the Devil intervene? Is he just a pawn in a game of chess? Who is in control? Who’s not in control?
What choices does Harry make? What choices are made for him? What’s pre-determined? What’s random? OMG. So many questions. So varied the answers. Only those who see the show can decide and choose. And, are those real choices or previously made choices?
The Last Temptation of Harry takes the audience down a strange path. It’s like going into The Twilight Zone (Remember that TV series?). Rod Serling would be proud. He’d be proud of the play and even more so of the cast performing with skill worthy of admiration. Certainly, Duplissie stands out as the central character on whom the piece centers. Then there is temptation, seductively portrayed by Alexandria Ross. She’s charming, witty, deceitful, and delicious. And there is a waitress with a heart of gold and a tarnished past, played by Cindy Siefers, that grounds the piece and gives structure to Harry’s plight and holds the piece together. And, of course, there is always a friendly bartender, Frank, performed by Michael Masterson, whom the audience suspects of being the miracle worker of the piece. And finally, the good buddy, played by co-author Nathan Bowman. Bowman gently guides Harry and cajoles him through his bar experience and stands as a reminder of days and ways past.
A small cast, but a very talented cast pulls off this kind of piece that could develop into a full-sized work. With the cast being so small, each needs to carry a dominant characterization or the piece fragments. In this cast, all meet and exceed the challenge.
The strongest performances come from Duplissie as the poor chap who just needs a drink and a reset button to move onward again. Next is Ross whose presence in the bar affects everyone, and finally, Siefers, who works her way through the piece to find herself with the biggest choice to make. A great job completed by all five super-dooper performers.
The play has the feel of a modernized Greek morality play with the gods and goddesses at work and play meddling in the lives of the common man. It touches on The Midas Touch as alcohol turns to water each time Harry (and only Harry) touches it. It hints at a reverse miracle of “water into wine” from Biblical stories. All pieces of those mix together into a Serlingesque piece of theater.