The Porch, by Vikky Gentry Ferris, is a beautifully written play with great imagery, strong characters, and true to life struggles. It is a shame that this was not captured in Fox Swamp Players premiere of The Porch.
Entering the Strand Theater, the set is visible behind the movie screen. A wonderful set with the front porch, white rockers, sand dunes, and floor painted the color of sand. No music, just the sound of the ocean greets all. The audience is relaxed and ready for a performance to match the pre show feeling. Unfortunately, it never quite gets there.
The story takes place in the summer of 1966. Laurie played by Rachel Tomovski, returns to her mother’s home for a visit as she is coming to terms with being a recently divorced mother. She is greeted by her mother, Clara, played by Patti L. Johnson and her Aunt Trudy. Jo Camlin, is charming as Trudy, the sixty-year-old aunt with the mind of a 12-year-old.. Trudy’s imagination and tall tales and excitement for life make her a lovable character. Cameron Tedrow as Jimmy, Laurie’s son, will make you smile as he and Trudy take on bank robbers and pirates. Still, the actors do little more to bring the audience into their world. The play has a lot of personal stories to tell. Whether it is Trudy’s story told by Clara or the story of how handyman Kyle, played by Daniel “DJ” Colvin, found is way to Pawleys Island, the acting falls flat and uninviting.
Still, it is the technical aspect, specifically the lighting, which is the big distraction from the story and the acting. While the action on stage moves from the porch, all too often the lighting does not follow and the actors are mere shadows on the stage. Many times, what should have been the lighting cue for the prior scene, occurs after the scene is over and then the eyes are drawn to what is now an empty part of the stage. At one point, in the middle of a scene, a blackout occurred leaving the actors running lines in the dark for about 10 seconds, a lifetime in the theater.
Scenery changes (placing beach chairs on the set) were creatively covered by the use of Shag dancer instead of a blackout, but this entertaining distraction lasted too long in what was already a slow running first act and unnecessary, except perhaps to give the actor’s more time to make a costume change. Even more unnecessary was the use again of the Shag dancers at the end of the first act. Yes. They were good dancers but, sometimes, it’s just time to put the lights up and let intermission commence. Then again, with all the on stage lighting problems, maybe they didn’t know how to turn on the house lights. Not to mention, this was an intermission only needed because the slow pace of the first act; a combination of directing and actors sounding as if they are struggling to remember their lines. Going into the second act, the audience is once again looking at a dark stage, with characters obviously in position, but the action is paused while “Up on the Roof” plays through. House lights are down, audience is ready, actors are ready, let the show go on.
While The Porch script still needs some work, as it is a new play, the character’s are well formed in the writing. In fact, if the production was tighter with less technical issues, the script would feel all the stronger. Yet,despite all the technical issues and passable, but for the most part, not memorable acting, it was a full theater, leaving one to believe, it’s not the quality of the performance, but the following of a theater in its 41st season that packs a house.