The year is 1984 and the city of Baltimore is devastated.  Its hometown football team, the Colts, has snuck away in the middle of the night, their entire belongings loaded into a fleet of Mayflower Transit trucks bound for Indianapolis.  Reviled team owner Robert Isray’s name is less than mud in Baltimore on this snowy March morning, when its residents awaken to the news that the Baltimore Colts are no more.

One of them, a 62-year-old family man named Chet, is so overwhelmed by the news that he has a heart attack in front of his TV set and dies. That Chet was a life-long smoker who had refused to quit until his first heart attack a few years before seems far less at fault than the TV news report of the Colts’ betrayal.

Thus begins David Lasdon’s engaging slice of life dramedy Mayflower, just given an impeccably directed and performed staged reading as part of The Blank Theatre’s ongoing Living Room series.

Pretty much everyone who knew Chet is affected by his death (inextricably tied to the loss of his beloved Colts), so much so that his wife, son, and bar cronies continue to see him and converse with him throughout the days following his death. Ghost, or just the powerful memory of a complex man? It’s left to the audience to decide.

Chet’s wife Alice wonders how she’s going to make it without her soul mate.  His son Mel begins to question whether a friendship “with benefits” with sexy Kim is worth the risk it poses to his relationship with big-haired girlfriend Cheryl. 20something African American Lester must decide whether to follow his father Bob’s dreams for his future or finally become his own man. Old-fashioned Phil is torn between wanting things to stay the same as they were when he married Sharon 19 years ago, or accepting that Sharon is no longer content with her traditional role as stay at home housewife.  Finally, bartender Stavros wonders if the local drinking hole can survive without Colts games to watch (and obsess over ad infinitum).

Like the film Diner, which shares its Baltimore setting, Mayflower tells a story that is time and place specific. Women’s roles had indeed changed from the 1950s/early 1960s mold as had African Americans’ lives.  Sharon is no longer satisfied with a husband who has never taken the time to give her an orgasm (he believes that women’s orgasms are a myth). Bob’s was the first black family in this neighborhood, and he can still recall a time not so long before when even drinking fountains were labeled “Whites” and “Coloreds,” whereas Lester has grown up in a racially mixed environment.

Mayflower is also universal—in its exploration of love, friendship, and family, and one does not have to be a football fan to become involved in Lasdon’s characters and their stories.

At Mayflower’s April 14 staged reading, director C. Josephine Hagerty did an excellent job of making the Blank’s Dickie and Babe set work for Mayflower’s various locations, and brought forth fine performances from her entire cast, who although on book, nevertheless created rich and memorable characters.  Ben Tolpin (Mel) has the kind of sexy good looks (and talent) that bode well for a TV/film career.  Robert Trebor and Lizzie Peet (as the mismatched Phil and Sharon) made us care (and root) for this married couple on the verge of a breakup. Tessa Monroe (love the big 80s hair!) and Courtnee Draper gave three dimensional performances as Cheryl and Kim (the objects of Mel’s confusion). Kim Estes and Burl Moseley’s scenes together as Bob and Lester were especially powerful, as was Melinda Peterson’s moving performance as bereaved Alice. Mark Arnold also did fine work as bartender Stavros.  Finally, Weston Blakesley (as the late Chet) created a memorable portrait of a man who lived life to the fullest, even if it meant deliberately sacrificing his health.

Some might find that the play’s multiple happy endings tie things up a bit too neatly, but not I. Within the space of two hours, I’d come to know and to care about Lasdon’s characters, and felt that they deserved to have their stories resolved in the positive way he gives them.

Just as there is room for edgy fare, and revivals of classics, and farce, there is also room on our stages for solid, good old-fashioned entertainment, something which Lasdon’s play most definitely provides.  It is to be hoped that Angelinos will be treated to a fully staged production of Mayflower in the not so distant future.

–Steven Stanley
April 14, 2008

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