Unless you know a member of the cast or crew, there is no reason to see Theatre Vertigo’s production of God’s Ear. Though the premise is intriguing—a married couple mourning the death of their 10-year-old son in a surreal, semi-fantastical setting—the dialogue is annoying, the main characters are unlikable and the set is ugly.
Unless you know a member of the cast or crew, there is no reason to see Theatre Vertigo’s production of God’s Ear. Though the premise is intriguing—a married couple mourning the death of their 10-year-old son in a surreal, semi-fantastical setting—the dialogue is annoying, the main characters are unlikable and the set is ugly. This play is underwhelming at best.
To be fair, there is complimentary Ninkasi IPA at the concession stand and admission to Thursday night shows is “pay what you can,” but even free beer and a cheap ticket can’t make up for 90 minutes of cliché writing and frustrating characters.
This one-act play opens with Mel (Heather Rose Walters) and Ted (Mario Calcagno) receiving news that their young son is in critical condition. The scene then moves a month or two into the future, after their son has died, where we rediscover Mel, Ted and their daughter Lanie (Amy Newman) as the whittled family grapples with its new reality.
Ted travels, though whether he’s always traveled for work or is traveling more often now that he’s lost his son is unclear, and most of his contact with Mel occurs over the phone. Mel is left to keep house and care for their daughter.
While Ted’s counsel comes from a sassy transvestite flight attendant (Gary Norman), a drinking buddy (JR Wickman) and a mistress named Lenora (Brooke Fletcher), Mel receives in-house therapy sessions from the overweight Tooth Fairy (Jenn Hunter) and a come-to-life G.I. Joe (Gary Norman). The performances by Norman and Wickman are comedic and exceptionally well done. The play’s highlight may be Wickman’s quick solo about things you cannot sell on eBay or his assertion that his wife’s name is short for “smegma,” but neither actor receives enough time on stage.
Director Philip Cuomo applauds God’s Ear in the playbill as “the very best of contemporary theatre,” commending award-winning playwright Jenny Schwartz for her “sophisticated and clever” use of language and her innovative approach to narrative time and space. What both Schwartz and Cuomo forget is that characters—not unconventional, overly intellectualized, annoyingly symbolized techniques—are what drive a good story.
Main characters Mel and Ted are neither likable nor relatable, and the chemistry between this married couple is so lacking that the entire plotline becomes difficult to swallow. Were they ever in love? If they were, why? Walters’ Mel is mousy, self-absorbed and critical; Calcagno’s Ted is negligent and aloof. No redeeming characterization is offered save a soft moment between Ted and Lanie towards the play’s end, but without cultured feelings of affection for Ted or Lanie this scene is effectively meaningless.
Every character in this play is cornered into a boring, intolerable stereotype of a human being—no one feels real. Despite Schwartz’s decision to focus on technique over characters, her technical choices lack the punch necessary to justify their prioritization.
In an effort to highlight our society’s supposed inability to communicate emotion and experience, the dialogue of God’s Ear is a repetitive jumble of one-liners and aphorisms that ultimately add up to nothing but irritating. Because nothing said means much of anything, the most revealing line of the play is when Ted pulls on the flight attendant’s sleeve and says, “I’m uncomfortable sitting in an exit row.”
Even though God’s Ear manages some humor, there’s not enough of it to make up for the disappointing story. Whether it’s Schwartz’s script, Cuomo’s direction or both, something’s flat. No one who spends a night with these characters will remember their names in the morning.