By Lauren Van Hemert, American Theatre Critics Association Member
Perhaps the only through-line of the South Stream production This Doesn’t End Well is the fact that it is a show about misfortune, written, directed, and co-produced by Brook North, who has had the misfortune of being rejected. In fact, these seven short one-act plays have been rejected cumulatively 20 times. And that fact, so noted in the show’s program, is kind of funny and sets the tone for the night.
The show opens with Misplaced, a tongue-in-cheek take on the Indiana Jones franchise. North’s vision of Indy has one Dr. Hornwoggle, played by stage veteran John Honeycutt, combing the desert with his academic assistant, Rachel, played by a smart and snarky Natalie Turgeon, searching for the ruins of a lost temple. Sadly, the pair learn the temple has been bulldozed by a resort developer played by Lou Campbell, who coincidentally played Harrison Ford in the Women’s Theatre Festival production of Crumble, Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake last summer.
Information is a two-person #MeToo play, at the end of which an empowered mall info desk girl played by a sharp-witted Katie Barrett delivers a zinger of a one-liner just before the lights go down, typical of many of North’s plays.
The one short that didn’t work was Inside Job about a gambling ring. This play was leaden, confusing, and not fully developed. Fortunately, this was one of the few parts of the production that fell flat despite a good performance by Julie Oliver, who shines in stronger pieces during the second act.
The first act closes with the most jarring and gripping short of the night, Lunch Break. This play examines workplace dynamics and suicide and is what one audience member called “macabre, but funny.” This play features almost the entire cast and is one of the more well-timed, well-acted, stronger pieces of the entire production.
The second act also closes with a well-acted play about death, but in this one called The Stream, North tackles the subject matter in a poignant and tender loving way.
And that sums up what this production is in a nutshell. It’s a mixed macabre blend of dark comedies lovingly performed by a thoughtful ensemble of strong actors under the direction of an impassioned North, who is able to fully realize his vision for the work from page to stage. And that makes the production worthy of a jaunt to Hillsborough Street.
This Doesn’t End Well is playing at the Sonorous Road Theatre at 3801 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. For tickets visit: https://www.sonorousroad.com/southstream. For more information about South Stream Productions, visit https://southstreamproductions.blogspot.com/.