Review: ‘Composure’ (Keeping It or Losing It?) At the Workshop Theater
By Miles Harter, Contributing Writer, June 7, 2017
Composure is the latest offering by The Workshop Theater, which develops and produces new American plays and musicals. Written by Scott S. Sickles, Composure adeptly covers a great deal of territory, expertly focusing on the enduring themes of loss, love, relationships, and friendship.
Set in a college town, husband and wife, Beth and Tommy Stanton, are having a difficult telephone conversation, during which Beth begins witnessing a brutal chain of events. In the very dramatic and well-played scene, Tommy can only hear Beth’s reactions to what is ultimately a murder-suicide. The play then shifts to one year later when college alum, Fletcher Driscoll, has returned to direct the college’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The production has been planned to mark the anniversary of the earlier tragedy, but is not universally endorsed as the appropriate way of recognizing the event. Added into the mix, Fletcher is devising his own original interpretation of the tragedy. Meanwhile, embarking on his own apparently star-crossed relationship with a college administrator, Jeff Landry, who has recently come out of the closet. In fact, Jeff and his former wife, Amanda Clifford, signed their divorce papers on the very day of the tragedy, one year earlier.
The focus of the play is the relationship of Fletcher and Jeff, who are very aware that their relationship may have an “expiration date,” since Fletcher is only scheduled to be in town long enough to direct Romeo and Juliet, and will soon be departing for Finland for another project. In Composure, Mr. Sickles also introduces us to unexpected and alarming connections between Fletcher and Tommy Stanton, and Jeff and Amanda Clifford. Mr. Sickles does a wonderful job of telling and interweaving these stories, providing the audience with some surprising and mostly satisfying twists.
The production is well cast, with all five principal actors delivering believable and natural performances; we find ourselves pulling for C.K. Allen (Jeff) and Robert Bruce McIntosh (Fletcher). Susan Izatt (Amanda) and Christine Verleny (Beth) are both splendid in evoking our sympathy and understanding for the pain that they have had to endure. Rob Ventre excels as the good-looking and not totally likable Tommy. Finally, Cliff Miller, playing the sole survivor of the shooting tragedy, is good in providing another perceptive view of the events.
Composure, presented by The Workshop Theater, 312 36th Street, through Saturday, June 24, 2017. By Scott C. Sickles. Directed by Fritz Brekeller; set design by Elizabet Puksto; costume design by Anthony Paul-Cavaretta; lighting design by Diana Duecker; sound design by Ian Wehrle; projection design by Greg Emetaz. Cast: C.K. Allen, Susan Izatt, Robert Bruce McIntosh, Cliff Miller (June 1-21), Rob Ventre, Christine Verleny, J. Warren Weber (June 22-24).
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Cover: (l. to r.) Susan Izatt, J. Warren Weber, C.K. Allen, Robert Bruce McIntosh, Christine Verleny, Rob Ventre in ‘Composure;’ photo: Gerry Goodstein.