You've only got a couple more weeks, so get it together and go see Portland Ensemble Theatre Company's Pylon. It's not the best, funniest, or slickest show you'll ever see, but it's a thoughtful, well-scripted, and solidly performed piece of new work. Playwright/director Craig Jessen is starting to find his groove, and he's put together an incredibly engaging production.
Pylon is the story of three affable, geeky high school guys and their girl/friend. Jake (Doug Reynolds) broke up with Dee (Brooke Fletcher), but they're both still hung up on each other. Mike (Adrian de Forest) has a thing for Dee, and so does Connor (Scott Fullerton), and all of them are trying to figure out how to navigate these competing feelings. When a stupid little stunt—stealing traffic cones—gets out of their control, the course of their friendship abruptly changes speed and direction.
Jessen has written incredibly believable, fully realized male characters. Effectively capturing the voice and motives of an adolescent is harder than it seems, and the actors do an excellent job of bringing them to life. As the object of their desire, Dee's character isn't as fully fleshed—but Fletcher is outstanding and works wonders with the material. The clichés of high school angst and excitement run rampant through the story—as they should—and Jessen keeps them from feeling tired by allowing the characters to step out of the story throughout the show. Addressing the audience, they qualify the scenes in process, explain what was going on in their heads, poke fun at each other, and make the emotions behind the stereotypes feel very real and fresh.
Jessen does such a good job of capturing and exploring the adolescent experiences of the boys that it's a real shame he didn't do the same for Dee. He gets close—like the boys, she addresses the audience and tries to explain her perspective. But at the end of the show, the boys move on to begin their adult lives while Dee remains preserved in their memories, staying the same forever. Jessen's got a great ear for language, and he's a writer you'll see again. Here's hoping that with each play, he continues to grow and improve.