Written by James Comtois
Directed by Tim Errickson
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
At some point on “Off Track,” – it might have been in a phone conversation with his ex-boyfriend just before his phone died – Ian (Matthew Trumbull) says, “It’s too late to fix it.” This phrase could easily describe James Comtois’s “Off Track” several scenes earlier when it was already too late to fix his FringeNYC 2016 play currently running at Teatro SEA at The Clemente.
“Off Track” circumlocutes several important issues without raising one deep, rich, enduring question about any of them. This failure on the part of a playwright is unfortunate and unfair not only to an audience but to the show’s actors that have to struggle to make sense of a play they are called to enliven with sense and sensibility.
Back to those issues: white privilege; systemic racism; unemployment; drug-dealing; economic disparity; and crimes of passion to name but a few of Mr. Comtois’s sub-plots. All of these left on Rosie’s Yeauxlanda Kay) bar to evaporate before last call. The playwright chooses – one assumes it must have been a choice – to write about none of these themes. He also has chosen to introduce characters he abandons on page and on stage as underdeveloped stock characters without convincing or interesting conflicts.
After meeting Gary (Anthony F. Lalor) at his local bar just before the Chicago Transit Union’s strike, Ian spends the night with the young man “from the other side of town” who is found the next morning murdered and left behind a dumpster at a bar far from Ian’s “safe” neighborhood. That story – one which does pique the interest of the audience member – ends as quickly as it began. Eighty-five minutes later, the audience still yearns to know something, anything about the motivations of the only character no longer on the stage.
If only Yeauxlanda Kay (a.k.a spoken word artist Yolanda K. Wilkinson) had stepped out from behind her bar, stood next to Gary’s bar-top memorial, and with some power poetry challenged the audience about any one of the themes that remain buried in “Off Track.” That experience would have gone a long way to putting the play back on track.