There’s not many subjects more relevant in Cincinnati than that of the gentrification of urban areas. Add that timely subject matter into the always rich topics of addiction, race, and relationships and you have a recipe for drama.
BUZZER, a new play at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, is chock full of dramatic tension, interpersonal conflict, and wonderfully acted moments. I really really loved it.
Eric Lynch, the son of Rev. Damon Lynch (a preacher who holds the distinction of being one of two sermons I’ve ever walked out of . . .I was much younger then and less tolerant), does an admirable job as the young corporate attorney, “Jackson” who’s returned to the neighborhood he grew up in to buy an apartment while the deals are still good. Things are changing back home, you see, and property is going to be quite valuable as the hipsters and yuppies keep moving in.
His girlfriend – his WHITE girlfriend – is “Suzy”, a young idealistic school teacher who has some reservations about moving in with Jackson and even more so about the neighborhood. The apartment is big enough that Jackson has allowed his childhood friend, “Don,” a recovering addict to move in while he gets his life on track. This doesn’t sit too well with Suzy, and for lots of good reasons.
The relationships in this play are engaging, well-written, and fascinating to watch. I enjoyed Lynch very much. When I could see his face he was exceptional; when I couldn’t see him, I could hear him acting. But when I could watch him emote, it was one hundred percent authentic. Kind of a strange phenomenon, actually, and I don’t know how to account for it. Those seated in the center section likely will have a more consistent experience.
Carly Zien as Suzy is feisty, charming, and completely genuine in the role. She has some wickedly fun moments and conveys excellent emotion. I understood her motivations Alec Shaw, who plays Don, is equally charming. Like many addicts, the character’s natural charisma conflicts with his lack of self-regard – and Shaw seems to fully understand and realize these traits. I can’t find any fault with their performances.
I’m not sure I would have chosen to write the same ending as Tracey Scott Wilson and some of the dialogue would be a bit clunky in the hands of less skilled actors, but that’s neither here nor there. Even with a little bit of puzzlement at the finale, I still left satisfied. Perhaps it was the way in which she structured the mysteries in the story; maybe it was the way Timothy Douglas directed the heart-pounding moments of sexual and other tension, or perhaps it was in the way it was so outstandingly acted (and more than likely a combination of all three) but regardless, I highly recommend BUZZER as a must see play.
BUZZER runs at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through April 19th. Tickets and more information can be found here.