Standing Still Standing, written by Provo playwright Melissa Leilani Larson and currently in production at the Provo Theatre Company, is a joyous and absurd romp that will leave you in stitches and/or questioning the extent to which love can endure.
The play’s plot focuses on the oft-beleaguered marriage of Ben and Grace (played by Will McAllister and Heidi Hathaway, respectively). Ben suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrom (CFS), which means he sleeps a lot. This condition begins to wear on the normally patient Grace as it results in more and more missed disappointments. The couple grapple with disease, uncertainty and the implications of both throughout the balance of the play, surrounded by a revolving cast of colorful characters.
To be honest, Larson’s writing is the star of the show. Funny, smart and culutrally relevant, her script switches effortlessly from inexplicable absurdity to heart-rending reality. Any playwright who can somehow balance the bizarre comedic power of the Pope marrying Billy Joel and a main character with a serious, dense discussion on the connection between illness and excuses in the way Larson does deserves a hearty round of applause. Though the play can be challenging to follow as it shifts in and out of reality, Larson keeps the hits coming with a gaggle of one-liners and fascinating characters that keep the audience guessing.
While the play focuses most of its dramatic attention on Ben and Grace’s relationship, the small supporting cast provides standout performances in their own right. Jake Welch and Matt Meese provide hilarious comic interplay as they shift through a rotating cast of characters, each crazier than the last. (Full disclosure: Welch is a sports and food correspondent for Rhombus.) All in all, the pair cover a wide range of personalities, ranging from doctors to soldiers to a strange hippy named Peaches to the aforementioned Mr. Joel to the Holy See himself. The quick changes and bizarre settings are high comedy and keep the audience constantly engaged. Courtney Jensen and Hillary Andrus Straga also provide strong performances in ensemble roles, while Justine Trotter performs admirably as Ben’s fellow CFS sufferer (albeit one who is coping better with the condition.)
Landon Wheeler’s direction and staging are also strong, as are the general performances of the principal actors. However, the play’s charm lies largely with Larson’s snappy script and the luscious supporting performances that augment and improve the character drama played out by the leads. As someone who enjoys theatre without being a “theatre person,” I supremely enjoyed Standing Still Standing, and recommend it as an entertaining, high quality production for those who enjoy the oft-neglected pastimes of laughing and thinking. Larson, Wheeler and company provided both in equal, generous measure.
Standing Still Standing is currently in production at the Provo Theatre Company (105 E 100 N) through July 27th, with performances on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 7:30 p.m. A Saturday matinee is also available at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 for students and seniors. Please visit the production’s blog for more information.
Steve Pierce is co-founder and editor of Rhombus. He is ambivalent about whether he prefers the British or American spelling of “theatre/theater.”
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