Third Rail Repertory Theatre has a crush on playwright Craig Wright. In case their selection of yet another Wright script didn't make their feelings abundantly clear, director Slayden Scott Yarbrough comes right out and says it in the show's program: They love him. And it's easy to understand why, given Wright's smart, evocative writing. Now that Third Rail has a few Drammys under their belt, they're revisiting the former Six Feet Under screenwriter's work again with Wright's moody, reflective Pavilion.
Pavilion is set at a high school reunion, where two former lovers see each other for the first time in 20 years. Peter (Michael O'Connell) left Kari (Valerie Stevens) after graduation, and he hasn't felt happy or fulfilled since. He has pinpointed leaving her as the moment that his life went off track, and he hopes to remedy things at the reunion. Kari, though, still harbors some serious animosity toward Peter. Meanwhile, Damon Kupper functions as both narrator and the rest of the cast, playing by turns a gossipy friend, a pot-smoking politician, and a dozen other characters who might turn up at a reunion.
There's something highly reflective about this lovely little show, as though all the production elements are angled in such a way as to project your own image back to you. The barebones stage is spattered with stars and disco lights, evoking both nostalgia and possibility. Kari and Peter are two solid little chunks of normalcy in the midst of the dreamy stage, grappling with their feelings while the narrator flits about them. It's a funny juxtaposition, between the metaphysical musings and mercurial shape-shifting of the narrator and the often banal conversations between Peter and Kari, but it works wonderfully, endowing a bit of grace to even the most awkward moments of the human condition.
The cast and crew make this production look effortless—as though tech, acting, and directing snap together this cleanly all the time. There's really only one way to put it: Pavilion is a great show. Well written, well conceived, and well executed. You won't find many nights at the theater more satisfying than this one.