REVIEW: Gorilla Tango’s “Mark & Laura’s Couples Advice Christmas Special”

Lack of Plot Leaves Characters Adrift

 

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Gorilla Tango presents:

Mark & Laura’s Couples Advice Christmas Special

Review by Keith Ecker

There are countless Christmas offerings this holiday season. You have the evergreen classics such as Miracle on 34th Street (our review) and A Christmas Carol (there are actually seven separate productions of the latter). You have plays targeted toward both children and the inner-child, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (review). Then there’s the fringe fare—over-the-top shows that lampoon those things we hold most sacred about the Christmas season from family to Jesus to televised holiday spectaculars.

Mark & Laura’s Couples Advice Christmas Special (ticket info) falls into the latter category. It’s a bare-boned production that can barely be called a play due to its lack of any semblance of a plot. It’s definitely a comedy, though the funniest part of the show is the program, which provides humorous biographic information on the main characters. Yet, the play fails to incorporate this humor and, rather, flounders along on a series of contrived and well-worn comedy conventions.

The play centers on the Gibsons, a family who produces a cable access, relationship advice program. The fourth wall is non-existent as we, the audience, are the in-studio audience for their fictional broadcast, which airs in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Mother and father duo Laura (Carrie Bain) and Mark (Ryan McChesney) play the hosts who ooze Midwestern wholesomeness, including Laura’s love for soup and Mark’s passion for toolsets. Their production assistant is their son Sean (Adam Ziemkiewicz), a flamboyant thespian who elicits only derision from his father. The couple’s other son, Mark Jr. (Raymond Bruce Birkett III), is the apple of his father’s eye due to his love of ties and his 3.2 GPA.

Throughout the show, the couple espouses relationship advice, at one point fielding questions from the audience. Yet, it is obvious that hypocrisy is afoot as there are dysfunctions between the Gibsons, both as partners and as a family unit.

We’ve seen all these characters and relationships before in one form or another: the ostracized gay son, the know-it-all dad and the worrisome mother who just wants everyone to get along for the holidays. And although all actors do a good job of making these stock characters come to life, there is no reason for the audience to become invested in them in any way. That’s because there is really no plot, but only what appears to be a skeleton of a script with a few marks the actors agree to hit. There is little tension, despite such melodramatic conflict. There is resolution, but no feeling of relief. We cannot care about four people meandering on stage, directionless.

If there was more time and thought put into creating an inventive story wherein to place the Gibsons, this could have been an entertaining and refreshing addition to seasonal theater. However, as it stands, it’s really just a good way to enjoy an hour of central heating, courtesy of the Gorilla Tango Theater.

Rating:

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