The Amazing Brenda Strider

Coho Theatre

Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Nov 23

220-2646, $16-$18

Watching The Amazing Brenda Strider, I caught myself chortling with glee in anticipation of the witty and scathing remarks I was soon to pen. "Look at this pitiful set design," I said to myself. "See how this play switches between a hospital room where a young man, Gene (Nicholas Burilini-Price), is dying of cancer, and scenes from the outside world. But the only way director Steve Smith can think to convey the outside world is by casting different shades of light on another hospital bed. Ha!" I'm all for using one versatile prop as the centerpiece for multiple settings, but come on, a hospital bed as a bar? Or a hospital bed in the middle of a farm? That's just lazy play making.

When the play ended, however, and the "twist" kicked in, I realized that my ridicule was perhaps hasty. I won't ruin it for the potential future audience member, but I will say that the settings outside the hospital are not intended as realism so much as descriptions of realism from Gene's writing partner and good buddy, Jerry (Gary Brickner-Schulz). As the conclusion settles, it becomes more and more apparent that these settings rely heavily on the characters' imaginations, and so the hospital bed is not intended to be realistic, but as a tool to bring Jerry's tales to life for both Gene and the audience.

So, the blandness in regards to innovative staging appears to be intentional, which means I can't criticize this play for that reason. Still, plot twists aside, there is no excuse for excruciating dialogue, astronomical pacing, and a boring story, all of which can be found here. Price and Schulz do their best, but the script for Strider spends way too much time on the Brenda Strider segment, a completely trite, uninteresting piece of pulp about a mysterious babe and her murderous plastic surgeon husband. And yet, it turns out in the end that this hackneyed element, too, is intentional, a meticulously planned plot contrivance. Am I allowed to criticize something for being cliche when it is supposed to be cliche? I reckon not, but I'm certainly allowed to say that it wasn't fun to watch. It wasn't. JUSTIN SANDERS