Spoleto 2010 » Theater

The voyeuristic Discretion looks at a marriage on the verge of collapse

A marriage under the microscope



Viewers tuning into TMZ or flipping through the pages of any of the various tabloids while waiting in line at the grocery store are bombarded with enticing headlines teasing the reader about the latest sex scandal. Fictional TV shows are borrowing plot lines from the true-life adulterous romances that have ruined many politicians, and the question of "who is cheating on who" has created a substantial — and thriving — business, but the motives behind these salacious unions is nearly always left out of the print.

Terry Roueche's play Discretion tries to expand on the overplayed subject of adultery by showing how numerous components, such as age, careers, and dreams, can lead to the serious act. The play opened last night at Lance Hall on the grounds of the Circular Congregational Church.

Lance Hall gives off the feeling of a one-room school and required the play's crew to install around 70 seats, nearly all of which were filled on opening night. The venue itself could be considered part of the play's setting as all the furniture and props used fit nicely into the narrow hall where it would have looked isolated in a standard theater. The floor of the hall is used as the stage, and the entire audience is within 20 feet of the actors, creating an intimate and voyeuristic feel before the play even begins.

The play itself a true love triangle, as it consists of only three characters: sexy, older woman Claire (Pamela Nichols Galle), Claire's mellow, workaholic husband Philip (Mark Landis), and Claire's young coworker Richard (Richard "Boogie" Dabney). The 90-minute long Discretion has no intermission or set changes, and the majority of the play takes place in Claire and Philip's living room.

The play opens with Claire asking Richard about his feelings for a mutual co-worker that Richard has mentioned in the past. The wily Richard is more than willing to play this game, and it quickly becomes evident that his crush is on Claire. The seed of infidelity is planted in the minds of Claire and Richard, and it does not take long until Philip catches on to their suspicious actions.

Galle, a veteran of the Charlotte community theaters, is impressive as a woman torn between the rationality of her husband and the excitement of a less-constrained younger man. She is in nearly every scene and portrays Claire's internal confusion through her facial expressions without having to say a word. On the other hand, Dabney, a College of Charleston theater grad, does not benefit by having to play the one-dimensional Richard who's motives for wanting Claire — even if purely physical attraction — seem to be artificial and hint at a deeper lust that is never completely understood. Because of this, Dabney seems to be trying to catch up to Galle's fluidity by over-emphasizing certain dialogue and movements which come off slightly awkward, making it difficult to see why Claire would be attracted to Richard in the first place.

All the characters in the play know where Claire and Richard's improper relationship is bound to go, and certain scenes do not do much to advance the action to a proper climax, but rather conclude on the same note that they began with. With only three characters, one set, and few topics not-related to Claire and Richard's relationship, the story needs some kind of diversion, even if it's simply an intermission or set change.

Luckily, the plot picks up a bit with the entrance of Philip. Landis, a theater professor at the College of Charleston, profits from playing the most fleshed out character in the play. While Claire and Richard's progressively dangerous relationship advances, it is Philip's calmness and collectedness that sets Discretion apart from the average telling of an unfaithful union. The meaning of the play's name is revealed through Philip's decision to give Claire the freedom to make up her own mind —a lackluster turn of events in the typical love-triangle story, but refreshingly different. Discretion creates a subdued type of drama that does not force the characters to act improbably fictional; it mirrors the much more believable rationale of a couple dealing with a dissolving union, making the play's flaws seem minor and overall message compelling.

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