Lauren Yee’s world premiere “The Song of Summer” is the best new contemporary play I have seen in years.
Trinity Rep commissioned Yee to write the play, which gets solid performances from its veterans, Anne Scurria, Joe Wilson Jr. and Charlie Thurston, in addition to Tina Chillip, a Brown/Trinity grad with excellent credentials.
Charlie Thurston plays singer/songwriter Robbie, a one-hit wonder who returns to his home town of Pottsville, Pennsylvania to visit his old piano teacher (Anne Scurria), reconnecting with his childhood best friend (Tina Chillip). Robbie has skipped out on his manager (a hilarious Joe Wilson Jr.), who tracks him down and attempts to lure him back to his tour. Robbie has some old business to deal with that prolongs his visit, much to the chagrin of his manager, who has his own fires to put out.
This is one of those plays that reviewers struggle writing about because we don’t want to give away the twists and surprises by revealing too much of the plot.
Yee is a clever writer, a true craftsman (craftswoman?) in constructing a 90-minute, intermission-less play that has you rooting for the characters, even with their flaws.
Adam Riggs’ set adds to the enjoyment. Most of the action takes place within the piano teacher’s living room, but a little niche opens to include a Waffle House, stage and karaoke bar.
There is a flashback that is vital to the story, set up brilliantly in a scene change like none I’ve ever seen before.
Credit goes to director Taibi Magar, who has guided the talented cast and crew through a flawless production.
Yee’s dialogue is clever, hysterically funny and at times poignant. Robbie’s insecurity and paranoia is in conflict with Tina’s seemingly self-assurance.
There are so many memorable scenes, like Robbie and Tina’s first sexual encounter, which is handled tastefully and hilariously at the same time. Thurston is a master of physical comedy and uses his skills well.
And what more could I say about Anne Scurria? The veteran actress was born to play the ditzy piano teacher. I would swear that Yee wrote this terrific play with all four actors in mind.
There is a nice surprise at the end of the play, which my astute wife had seen coming.
The old reviewer adage, “If you see no other play this year…” olds true for “The Song of Summer.” I hope you will see many more plays this year. Just put “The Song of Summer” at the top of your list.
The world premiere is at Trinity’s Dowling Theatre through April 14. Call 351-4242 for reservations.