It isn’t often that a set design so fully reflects my feelings about a play, but that is exactly what happened last night with the Best Friends Theatre Co-op production of The Story of My Life. Problem is, it was all kinds of beige.
A simple two-hander, The Story of My Life opens with Thomas (Stephen Aberle), a successful author, struggling to write a eulogy for his friend Alvin (Jonathan Holmes). Over the next hour and half we watch as Thomas, with help from a re-materialized Alvin, struggles to find the point where the friendship drifted apart and the reason for his writer’s block. By the time Thomas finally comes to that reason, we are so far ahead of him there is little dramatic release.
Lyricist Neil Bartram and writer Brian Hill present each chapter in Thomas and Alvin’s bromance as short stories plucked from set designer Drew Facey’s piled high stack of books. As a mechanism to propel the story it works, but it did become repetitious, much like Aberle incessantly putting on and taking off his jacket.
As the central focus for the piece, the relationship between Thomas and Alvin never quite gelled for me and I found myself little invested in caring why they were friends in the first place. A lot of this has to do with Hill’s book which superficially injects numerous references to Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life without any of the emotional depth that made the movie so enduring (and endearing).
Bertram’s music is a great deal more interesting than his lyrics (with such gems as “you haven’t had more than a bite of your tuna tartare, or the hummus” you get the idea) and under the careful direction of Wendy Bross Stuart the three-piece ensemble was a definite highlight.
Both Aberle and Holmes try hard, giving honest performances, but are simply unable to rise above the bland beige of the material. The irony of Alvin’s “You’re Amazing, Tom” was not lost on me last night: quality stories are indeed tough.
The Story of My Life
Music & lyrics by Neil Bartram. Book by Brian Hill. Directed by Valerie Easton. A Best Friends Theatre Co-op production. On stage at the Granville Island Revue Stage through March 19, 2011.
Visit http://thestoryofmylife.ca for tickets and information.