In Review: Lacy, the Premier Show of Jewel Box Series
Last night I attended the final dress rehearsal for the play Lacy, written by playwright and composer Mark Watts and Stephanie Karr. Lacy will be premiering as the first play of the Jewel Box series at the Plaza's Philanthropy Theater (where, this past summer, I saw the saddest and most emotional showing of Jumanji).
The Jewel Box series is the birth child of the El Paso Community Foundation partnering with El Paso Live, in an attempt to utilize the beautiful facility downtown as a showcase for local playwrights and theater types. This series is particularly exciting because of the opportunities granted to local writers, which has been something long missing from the El Paso art scene. As of now there are eight shows lined up for the series, all featuring various artists and performers of the El Paso area, so it is something to watch out for in the upcoming months.
Despite the potential value of the Jewel Box Series to the artistic community, there seemed to have been a real lack of support and coverage from the local media for the opening weekend, allowing the opening of an exciting aspect of the downtown revitalization to go unheard and unseen.
The Jewel Box Series has the potential to create competition among local playwrights and theater groups and encourage creativity.
Lacy is described as a mystery that doubles as a musical. It takes place on The Florence, a cruise ship in 1930. The play includes a mysterious princess, her incompetent sidekick Vladimir that mostly hovers around the stage repeating, "I'm sorry Madame," a petty thief, a loud and boisterous widow, a Captain, a charming Professor, a drunken businessman and his secretary and a few unnamed arbitrarily placed characters. The storyline is rather slow to develop, taking an entire first half to advance the plot less than a nautical mile; by intermission the plot has hardly even left the harbor.
The writer said in an interview on State of the Arts that it is "a lighthearted mystery, it's not a heavy mystery, it's not a dark passage, there's no message here, and it’s simply entertaining."
The plot, following the tradition of the classic mystery, with its expected twists and turns, really turns nowhere and arrives nowhere. Oftentimes, the play simply reveals the missing pieces through dialogue, defeating perhaps the main purpose of its genre.
It does however, have moments of unexpected charm and humor. A particular scene where a character is placed under arrest for his involvement in the crime at hand, is rather oddly entertaining given the fact that said perpetrator is passionately singing in protest about his arrest, but is showing no real restraint in his actions. Instead, he is being clumsily hauled off by two men as they unconvincingly struggle to subdue him.
Lacy, the mysterious princess from Slovenia is played by long time El Paso actress Eurydice Saucedo, who managed to make the script come alive with her rather bombastic and effervescent performance. Her evil laugh and line delivery could be quite charming at times. Her stage presence completely overshadows the inept sidekick, who simply bobs around on stage.
There were a few enjoyable tunes and some sparkling moments; for example, the widow who walked around asking everybody if they remembered her husband and his heroic feats at the Dardanelle’s, which given the play’s setting (1930) occurred almost 15 years prior.
The play mostly stood on a faulty foundation: the script. And nothing on a faulty foundation stands for very long, but can only wobble and teeter before falling over and spilling itself on stage. The actors held their own with the lines, bringing life and quirkiness to the story and even some humor. The set was rather impressive, as was the use of space and stage direction, given its small size and rather large cast.
"Lacy" written by Mark Watts, directed by Darci Georges
Jewel Box Series opens tonight at the Philanthropy Theater, 125 Pioneer Plaza, El Paso, TX 79901
Oct 3-5, 10-12
Tickets @ www.ticketmaster.com
Correction: In an earlier posting of this piece we stated the play was written by Mark Watts. It was written by Mark Watts and Stephanie Karr.