REVIEW: McMeekin Finds Out (Route 66 Theatre Company)

 

Did I mention we’re in Pittsburgh?

 

 Kate Buddeke, Blair Robertson, and Randy Steinmeyer

   
Route 66 Theatre presents
   
McMeekin Finds Out
   
Written by Scott T. Barsotti
Directed by Damon Kiely
at Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
through November 14  |  tickets: $25-$37   |  more info

Reviewed by Keith Ecker 

I hate seeing a bad play. You walk into the theater full of hope and high on expectations. The play may start out okay: an intriguing opening, some snappy dialogue and characters that are brimming with potential. But by the intermission, you realize the mess you’ve gotten yourself into, so you reach for your car keys. But then you remember you’re a theatre critic, so you have to stay and see if this agonizingly, dead-on-arrival play miraculously gets any better. And, more often than not, it doesn’t. Now you’re out two hours of your time, plus you must set out on the task of panning someone else’s beloved creation, which, let me tell you, makes you feel like a total and utter schmuck.

Route 66 Theatre Company’s world premier of McMeekin Finds Out makes me feel like a schmuck. This play is so seriously flawed that I am amazed the collective of talented artists behind the production didn’t demand this thing incubate a bit longer before letting it go to term. Don’t get me wrong; there is certainly potential. But as it stands, this mess of a slapstick comedy is like seeing a mediocre improv show, where everything rests on a thrown-together goofy premise and where louder means funnier.

Randy Steinmeyer and Kate Buddeke 2 The play, written by Scott T. Barsotti, centers around a family in Pittsburgh. And Barsotti doesn’t let you forget for a minute where this play takes place. Mentions of the Steelers occur in every other sentence, and everyone possesses the standard Pittsburgh dialect, sprinkling their dialogue with words like “yinz.”

At the play’s opening, we witness the daughter Carla (Blair Robertson) getting on a guy at a house party. She’s drunk, and we can’t quite see the young man the way the couch is positioned. What we do know is that he’s immobilized somehow, possibly drunk or possibly tied up. In any case, she proceeds to have sex with him, which surprisingly serves as the basis of the play’s entire plot. That’s because, upon arriving home the next morning, Carla confesses to her parents, Guy (Randy Steinmeyer) and Pam (Kate Buddeke), that she may have raped the young man, since technically he didn’t consent.

That’s about it. There’s really not much more to this play. Oh sure, Guy and Pam are both laid up due to a car accident that was Guy’s fault. Guy now wears casts on both arms, which may have destroyed his career in construction. And Pam’s leg cast has made it impossible for her to continue being a chef for the time being. But Guy’s underlying guilt over the accident and Pam’s resentment are barely touched upon. Instead, the question of whether Carla raped a boy and what is the family to do dominates every single moment.

And perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad if we, the audience, hadn’t already seen exactly what happened within the first minutes of the play. We know that she took advantage of this boy. We know most of the circumstances. And so when characters continually say things like, “Well, we don’t really know what happened,” you want to yell, “We do!” and hope everyone just moves on to something more interesting.

Another issue I had with this play is that it’s just not funny. The humor, solely because of the subject matter, occasionally verges on edgy. But overall, most of the jokes are on par with sappy sitcom schlock.

For what it’s worth, much of the acting is solid. Steinmeyer is entertaining. His portrayal of Guy is as if you mashed Edith and Archie Bunker into one person. Likewise, Buddeke provides some much-needed understatement and realism to this otherwise over-the-top, harebrained play.

McMeekin Finds Out doesn’t know what it’s trying to say. It goes nowhere while being simultaneously all over the place. Worst of all, there’s no driving force that compels the audience to keep watching. Give this play a thorough rewrite or transform it into a brief one act and you may have something. Otherwise, the only thing you’ll find out is that you just sat through a bad play.

       
   
Rating: ★½
   
   

 Randy Steinmeyer and Kate Buddeke

 

Production Team

  • Scenic Designers: Jacqueline and Richard Penrod
  • Lighting Designer: Jesse Klug
  • Sound Designer: Cristina Di Risi
  • Costume Designer: Rachel Laritz
  • Properties and Production Manager: Lee Strausberg
  • Fight Director: John Tovar
  • Stage Manager: Cori Kabat
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Matthew Bonaccorso (Route 66 Company Member)
  • Dramaturg: Erica Weiss (Route 66 Company Member)
  • Assistant Director: Jen Bevard
  • Dialect Coach: Casey Cunningham
  • Props Designer: Sophia Briones

 

 Creative Team Bios

 

SCOTT T. BARSOTTI

(Playwright) is a playwright and actor originally from Pittsburgh, PA. His plays include McMEEKIN FINDS OUT, THE REVENANTS, JET BLACK CHEVROLET, BREWED, COYDOG, and THE BODY SNATCHER (based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story), and have been seen in Chicago, New York, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh, with upcoming productions in Los Angeles and Boston. Scott’s plays have been produced and/or developed by The Route 66 Theatre Company, WildClaw Theatre, Curious Theatre Branch, Chicago Dramatists, Collaboraction, and Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co. among many others. As an actor, Scott has worked with Victory Gardens Theater, WNEP Theater, Collaboraction, Pavement Group, and Illegal Drama, as well as his artistic homes Curious Theatre Branch and WildClaw Theatre. He has an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and his work has been extensively developed at Chicago Dramatists, where he is a Resident Playwright.

DAMON KIELY

(Director) served as the Artistic Director of American Theater Company from 2002 to 2007. Directing credits at American Theater Company include OKLAHOMA! (Nominated for 6 Jeff Awards including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical), THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, ORPHEUS DESCENDING, KID-SIMPLE, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, STRICTLY DISHONORABLE and THE HAIRY APE. He also recently directed WEEKEND by Gore Vidal for TimeLine Theatre. At The Theatre School at DePaul University, where he teaches acting and directing, he has directed THERE’S A BOY IN THE GIRL’S BATHROOM, HURRAH FOR THE NEXT WHO DIES and A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. Prior to moving back to Chicago he produced, directed and taught in New York City. In New York he directed for Public Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, the Ontological Theater, Adobe Theater Company, PS122, Ensemble Studio Theater and New Dramatists. Damon also served as the Artistic Director for Real Time Theater and was a Producing Director at the Ontological-Hysteric Theater as well as the Associate Artistic Director for the Children’s Theater of Maine. He is a winner of the 2000-02 NEA/TCG Career Directing Program, the 2000 Drama League Fall Directing Program and the 1997 Princess Grace Award. He teaches acting and directing for DePaul University. Damon’s adaptation of Edward Anderson’s novel, THIEVES LIKE US will be presented by The House Theatre this fall directed by Kimberly Senior.

RANDY STEINMEYER

(Guy McMeekin) is making his Route 66 debut with MCMEEKIN and last appeared on stage with Peter DeFaria in the Jeff Award- winning two-hander A STEADY RAIN by Keith Huff, directed by Russ Tutterow, for which he won the Jeff Award for Best Actor in a Play. He is an Associate Artist at Chicago Dramatists. He’s appeared in PUBLIC ENEMIES with Johnny Depp and Marion Cottilard and will be seen next in TRANSFORMERS 3 with Shia LaBeouf. TV credits include THE BEAST, EARLY EDITION, THE UNTOUCHABLES, TURKS, and MARIO AND THE MOB.

KATE BUDDEKE

(Pam McMeekin) is an ensemble member of American Blues Theater where she last appeared in TOBACCO ROAD. She is the recipient of four Jeff Awards for her work in OURSELVES ALONE, DANCING AT LUGHNASA, DAVID’S MOTHER and GYPSY. On Broadway she has appeared in Tracy Letts’ SUPERIOR DONUTS, GYPSY with Bernadette Peters, DEATH OF A SALESMAN with Brian Dennehy, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE with Natasha Richardson and CAROUSEL. TV and Film credits include CHOKING MAN, PAYBACK, THE NORTHERN KINGDOM and THE LAST NEW YORKER. Television credits include LAW AND ORDER: CI, THE SOPRANOS and FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS. She also has sung the National Anthem, solo, twice, for the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

BLAIR ROBERTSON

(Carla McMeekin) is the Producing Director of Route 66 Theatre Company and most recently appeared in Route 66’s production of HIGH FIDELITY. Other Chicago theatre credits include THE SNOW QUEEN and MY CHILDREN! MY AFRICA! (Victory Gardens Theater), A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Goodman Theatre), SUESSICAL (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), A ROMEO AND JULIET STORY, KISS ME KATE (Notre Dame Summer Shakespeare), THE LAST SUPPER (InFusion Theatre Company), and THE WILD PARTY (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble).

TYLER ROSS

(Bobby McMeekin) makes his Route 66 debut with MCMEEKIN FINDS OUT. Tyler is a native of Jacksonville, FL, and moved to Chicago in October of last year. He recently completed shooting of the independent feature THE WISE KIDS in Charleston, SC. Other stage credits include Adam in THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED), Homer in ANATOMY OF GRAY, and Eddie in OVER THE TAVERN. Other film and television credits include the independent feature LITTLE MEN, ABC Family’s SEARCHING FOR DAVID’S HEART, and a national commercial for Snickers Ice Cream.

DANE HALVORSON

(Wayne Hoak) makes his Route 66 Theatre debut with MCMEEKIN. Credits include THE HIDING PLACE at Provision Theater, ROSENCRANZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD at Writers’ Theatre, COMEDY OF ERRORS and EDWARD II at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Dane is a recent graduate of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

DANIELLE BROTHERS

(Cheryl) is a three-time non-Equity Jeff Award recipient for roles with Theo Ubique at the No Exit Cafe. She graduated from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle WA, was raised in Louisville KY, Vancouver WA and Portland OR, and has lived in Chicago for the last 15 years. She has worked with (among others) American Theater Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theatre, Porchlight, L’il Buds, Lifeline, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, Provision, Defiant and Chicago Kids Company.

   
 

3 Responses

  1. The Sound Designer’s name is spelled Cristina DeRisi, not Di Risi. You will find she has done a lot of work in Chicago if you google the correct spelling and is another rising star and graduate from DePaul.

    yes i’m biased, but the proof is plain to hear.

    Doug De Risi

  2. Gentle reviewer, I cannot agree with your stern appraisal. I actually enjoyed this one. Ask yourself why a writer should physically damage his characters and you will find another layer to this tale. I can agree that as humor, it’s not an easy sell, but the push is the thing. I don’t think I am reading more than intended, but I found this to be as much about all the walking wounded in the story.

  3. Hi Nancy,

    Thanks for your response.

    I’m the critic that wrote the review. I agree that the story is about the walking wounded. But for me, this play never reached the emotional depth necessary to really give that theme adequate weight. Sure, it’s a comedy. But all good comedies have that gravity somewhere behind the joke. After all, the pain is the reason for the laughter. And physical pain is never a substitution for emotional pain. Maybe if I had felt the anguish of Carla more, I would have found the play funnier and more meaningful. But it was too put on for me to truly care about the characters.

    And the point I made about the lack of a driving force for the plot also greatly weakens the script, no matter how intriguing the play’s themes. It’s just a basic convention of a play that’s missing from this script.

    Of course, this is all just my opinion. Thank you again for your comments.

    Keith

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