The Constructivists explore truth, beauty, passion and a hell of a lot more this week in an online production of Sheila Callaghan’s contemporary comedy Women Laughing Alone With Salad. Humor slides from the real to the surreal to tragedy and tragic reality in a series of scenes featuring a small ensemble. Director Jaimelyn Gray manages a very intimate theatre experience for the small screen. Actors each occupy their own screen on a simple background in a series of scenes that wander restlessly around a wide-ranging collection of interconnected themes. One story opens the show. There’s another one entirely waiting on the other side of intermission. The lack of a strong central plot works well with the online video format in a casually engaging dramatic comedy presentation.
Rob Schreiner rests at the center of an ensemble as Guy: a man trying to make some sort of connection between three different women who all fit into a different aspect of his own personality. Schreiner is charming enough, but it’s a bit disappointing that an ensemble so largely dominated by talented women couldn’t focus a little bit more on the female characters. They’re all cast against him as the central character, at least for the plot rolling through the show prior to intermission.
Prior to intermission, Liz Ehrler finesses a complicated emotional journey as Meredith. Guy meets Meredith at a club. He’s quickly drawn to her confident energy. Ehrler swims gracefully around the comedy as it rests on the surface of far more complicated drama. The deeper psychology of Callaghan’s characters feel a bit sparse in places, but Meredith feels a bit more sophisticated than everyone else in the ensemble. Ehrler does a beautiful job of delivering on that sophistication.
Paige Bourne isn’t given a hell of a lot of depth to work with as Guy’s traditionally attractive girlfriend Tori. She’s not a terribly appealing person, but Callaghan gives her self-conscious superficiality its own charm. Bourne does her amplifies that charm without compromising the deeper ugliness within the character. Bourne’s a performance has its own kind of fearlessness as she pursues the complexity within the superficiality.
Sabra Michelle rounds out the cast as Guy’s mother...a Boomer who has been through quite a lot in her life. She’s extremely judgmental of Guy for many, many reasons. Michelle lends the character depth even though it's largely present onscreen in only a single, brief dialogue between her and Guy.
The show returns from intermission with Ehrler and Bourne playing a couple of bro-forward masculine guys at the office of an advertising for a pharmaceutical company. Callaghan gets extremely tedious with a scene that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere from the beginning. Ehrler and Bourne play the roles well, giving the characters complexity without exaggerating the manliness for comic effect. They’re fun in a scene that pretty much lives up to the limited expectations it sets for itself. Ehrler and Bourne make an insufferably boring scene remarkably tolerable. Callaghan might have forgotten to have a point with the scene for the most part, but Ehrler and Bourne keep it from feeling like a waste of time.
By the time Michelle shows-up at the meeting in the role of another co-worker, Callghan lays into a bit of depth. By this time, it’s far too late. Michelle delivers a really compelling monologue about a search for identity of an ad executive. It's interesting, but by this time the rhythm of the show loses a lot of its momentum. Michelle carves into interesting depth as she is soon revealed to be playing Guy after intermission. It's a different point in Guy's life. The drama gains a bit of gravitas with Michelle as Guy, but it's the end of the show at this point and the show is only beginning to gain momentum right before it ends.
As tedious as it is in places, Women Laughing Alone With Salad director Jaimelyn Gray has pulled a less than accomplished script together into a really unique couple of hours on the internet with some extremely enjoyable local actors.
The Constructivists’ production of Women Laughing Alone With Salad runs September 30 - October 4. For tickets, visit the show’s page on Eventbrite.