Soap opera stars have said that fans sometimes scold them for their characters’ behavior. They confuse the actor with the role. I always thought that improbable until I spotted Kirk Stowers immediately following a performance of Rainbow Company’s “One to Grow On.”
Stowers plays a father so realistically callous to his needy son, that when I met the performer, my first reaction was one of disgust. “That boy needs you so bad, and you’re turning your back on him!” I wanted to say. “How can you be such an idiot?”
Luckily, I restrained myself. Of course, my nerdy reaction is a credit to Stowers and everyone else involved in this unusual one-hour drama. You get caught up in this memory play.
Local writer Brian Kral gives us what looks at first to be a simple tale about a 12-year-old Minnesota boy (Joel Ruud) and his crusty grandfather (Ken Kucan). There’s something, though, about the narration by Timothy-as-a-young man (Joe Maloney) that hints this will be a story about a major, perhaps painful, discovery. The foreshadowing pays off when Timothy’s absent father (Stowers) comes for a visit. The boy learns who the important people in his life really are.
Kral’s writing doesn’t patronize a young audience. He delves into the situation with unusual honesty. Those who think children’s plays should be all about handsome princes and defeated dragons will not be happy. But I imagine there will be more than one kid watching this who will say (unfortunately), “This is my story.”
Director Scott Davidson gets a beautifully smooth ensemble style from his eight-member cast.
Ruud radiates both joy and hurt so genuinely that as audience members, we desperately want to see him made happy.
Kucan’s a hard-nosed curmudgeon. Yet, we can feel his devotion to his grandson.
Stowers paints a portrait of a man living on automatic pilot. He’s so concerned about doing what others want of him, that he doesn’t realize he’s lost his spine.
Maloney, as the older Tim, is an accomplished actor. He knows how to throw lines away, how to make every slight movement count. He’s such an unaffected, down-to-earth performer, that you’d swear he’s making up his lines on the spot.
“One to Grow On” depicts small events in a child’s life, but its emotional impact is huge. The best part of the production may be the discussion families are likely to have after seeing it together.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.REVIEW
What: “One to Grow On”
When: 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Where: Reed Whipple Cultural Center, studio theater, 821 N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Tickets: $3-$7 (229-6211)