"A Point of Order" at CenterStage North Theatre, October 11-21, 2019
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Board meetings can be boring. Centerstage North’s "A Point of Order" proves that point. The first act is a tedious rehashing of a committee’s tribulations in trying to put together a statue unveiling to honor a hometown astronaut who no one in the town seems to remember. The second act picks up steam, with the introduction of a sadistic town millionaire brought in to fill a financial gap, then loses that steam rapidly when he leaves and the show limps to a conclusion.
The physical production is quite good. Kevin Renshaw’s set design shows a conference room with wood-paneled wainscoting and panoramic landscape artwork on the walls. French doors lead out to a balcony and nicely painted backdrop stage left. A door stage right leads to a hallway outside. Next to it are a hat rack and an American flag. Up center is an opening leading to what is assumed to be a kitchenette. The center of the room is taken up by a conference table and six rolling office chairs. It’s impeccably finished.
Costumes are generally modern-day casual wear, with the most notable features being the millionaire’s tailored outfit with red shoes and a Zippy Mart vest for a retail worker who didn’t have time to change after work. Johnny Boddie’s lighting design has nice transitions at scene starts and lets everything be seen clearly, although unexplained brightening of the lights occurs occasionally. What really impresses visually are the set dressing and props, by Debra Pae Robey. There’s a huge portrait of the millionaire perched stage left next to an office telephone. A Keurig coffee machine up center actually seems to be working, and there is a terrific model of the statue that looks exactly like what is described in the script.
Kevin Renshaw’s sound design makes good use of rain sounds, since the play takes place on rainy days in Randolphsburg, Pennsylvania. When the sun finally comes out at the end of the play, it’s lamely symbolic, but nicely realized in Johnny Boddie’s lighting scheme.
"Lame" describes the characters too. Perky, pushy Elizabeth (LeeAnna Lambert) is over-the-top flirtatious. Milton (Reggie Harper) is a hypochondriac. Muriel (Stacy Bowers) is self-effacing and full of self-doubt. Doug (Steve Robey) is a self-important professor who wants nothing but to have a cigarette. Larry (Matthew Mindeman) is a school bandleader whose band can barely carry a tune. They all reinforce their characteristics over and over. John Zincone, as millionaire Buck Drum, reveals his character’s sadism more gradually, aided by the fact that he appears only in the second act.
Directors Kevin and Jenifer Renshaw have done a good job in keeping sightlines relatively clear in a play where multiple characters are frequently seated around the conference table. It’s not all sitting and talking, though; there’s usually at least one character moving about to keep the show physically active.
Otherwise, direction is execrable. The actors have been encouraged to turn their characters into caricatures. Worst of all is LeeAnna Lambert, who is loudly, gratingly obnoxious throughout. Stacy Bowers is all exaggerated facial expressions, and Reggie Harper and Steve Robey give one-note performances focusing on their characters’ hypochondria and nicotine addiction. Matthew Mindeman isn’t bad at all (although far too young for his role), reacting believably to the nonsense going on around him. John Zincone is the most dynamic of the cast, although his Western bolo tie and Southern accent don’t exactly scream "life-long Pennsylvania resident."
Ed Simpson’s "A Point of Order" proves itself far from being an actor-proof play. A professional, well-directed cast might be able to keep interest throughout, but that’s not the case at CenterStage North. The tedium of the first act is livened by a high-stakes confrontation in the second act, but the overall concept is as exciting as a too-long board meeting. When you don’t care about the tissue-thin characters or the central dilemma of the plot, you can’t care much for the play.