The Pavilion (Review)

Playhouse production asks “What if?” and “Could it be?”

May 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Critic's Pick

Craig Wright’s play, The Pavilion, is set in Pine City, Minn., where the class of 1991 is celebrating its 20th reunion. Wright’s show, first produced in 2000, resonates with echoes of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, about the citizens of Grover’s Corners, a tiny New Hampshire town. Both towns are fictional — and universal. The latter point is brought to our attention immediately by a narrator (played by Jeffrey Kuhn). He’s a descendant of Wilder’s Stage Manager, full of philosophy, poetry and wry observations.

“This is a play about time,” he explains, meaning the impact of time’s inevitable stream, heedless of individual events no matter the trauma they have inflicted on people like former high school sweethearts Peter (Jay Stratton) and Kari (Anney Giobbe), pulled apart by an unplanned pregnancy and parental pressure. He is mired in regret; her anger festers just below the surface, until he shows up at their reunion. Then it’s fireworks and recriminations, appeals and denials — in the midst of a parade of one-time high school acquaintances (Kuhn amusingly portrays a dozen or so quirky men and women). Everyone imagines themselves the center of the universe, but each is pining for something missed or failed at or yearned for, inevitable for a tale set in “Pine City” in a dilapidated pavilion scheduled to be burned down by volunteer firemen when the reunion wraps up.

Ensemble Theatre’s D. Lynn Meyers is the show’s guest director, and The Pavilion is the kind of show — wistful and sad with humor and insight — that she’s a master of staging. Kuhn is endlessly inventive as he rotates through funny characters, and Stratton and Giobbe are painfully human, struggling with “What if” and “Could it be?” These questions of timing can’t be fully answered. But this exploration makes for a fine conclusion to the Playhouse’s season.

THE PAVILION, presented by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, continues through June 12. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.