Give / Take By Bryan Maynard and Michael Weems
Produced by Cone Man Running Productions
Review By H.G.Welch
Give/Take is essentially a character study into one man's slide into madness and return to redemption after a surprise divorce. Set almost entirely in the living room of the protagonist, the play takes you throw an indeterminate amount of time from the main character's sudden shock of his wife leaving through his decent into madness and finally his attempts to redeem himself. As his possessions dwindle so does his sanity, as he tries to find salvation through charity and in the process goes far beyond what anyone would consider sane.
Bryan Maynard is Dennis Hamilton, a man stuck in a dead end job and a banal social life. He is awoken by his wife Lindsey (Autumn Clack) to find her writing a good bye letter, listing all his flaws one by one. She has had enough of the same thing day after day, and is hurt by her husband's seemingly blasé attitude towards her miscarriage. After a rather loud argument, she leaves him. Thus begins Dennis' spiral into insanity.
After hearing a plea for donations from a local charity and still stinging from his wife's admonition he doesn't give enough, Dennis begins donating everything. Money, furniture, anything of value. He still longs for his wife, and has a hard time getting out of his old habits. One disastrous date after another does little to help him gain any sort of stability. He finally reaches his nadir when in a bout of madness he kidnaps a two faced celebrity to force the man to win back his wife. It is presented comically, but with a palpable tinge of insanity.
Dennis' redemption starts when he is able to turn away a televangelist with ulterior motives after Dennis calls in and confronts his victim over the phone on a telethon. The preacher is there for the house that Dennis in a drunken stupor offered for a chance to confront the celebrity. After Dennis literally gives the preacher the shirt off his back, the healing process begins. While the ending of the main story line wraps up perhaps a little too neatly, the play actually ends in a flashback to happier times to show that neither Dennis nor Lindsey were bad people, they just didn't express their concerns well.
The rest of the cast does a fine performance, especially for being shorthanded due to illness. Michael Raabe plays Rick Carlisle, the sleazy infomercial guru, writer and lounge singer that becomes the target of Dennis' ire. Raabe plays him well over the top, and makes you hate the character quickly. Ron Hamlin plays Henry, Dennis' long suffering uncle. He constantly pleads for Dennis to seek help, but to no avail. Tad Howington is Vance O'Bannon, the money loving televangelist that comes to Dennis out of opportunity, but turns on him out of spite. Callina Situka and Kim McMillen play Dennis' unfortunate dates and other roles, Situka deserves special praise for filling in as a drunken ticket agent, her performance drew the largest laughs of the night. Katie Tran did a fine job in her one major scene, going from death glare to star struck fan seamlessly. Eduardo Lopez rounded out the cast.
Give/Take can be hard to watch at times. Dennis is clearly not of the right mind for most of the play. Watching him spiral out of control while his uncle begs for him to get help tugs at the heart strings. His disastrous dates, while amusing, frame just how desperate he is to show up his ex-wife at the expense of his dates. The play does bring out multiple emotions, it flips between comedy and drama at will. While it does not go as far to become a tragedy, it gets close at times. The strong cast does make you feel for them, which makes the play work.
On a side note to Ms. Clack, your ability to hold an uncomfortable pose for several minutes while wearing a full wedding dress did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
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