Review: Queue at Grove Haus 

***1/2

This iteration of Queue is far more enjoyable than its Fringe Festival debut from 2010; the script has undergone radical changes, leaving behind the previous wandering focus and throwaway gags and finding a very strong leading man in Colin McCord, who plays the fretful character of Will with great sympathy and vulnerability.

Also entirely different from the original Fringe Festival performance is the decision by writer-director Casey Ross to take advantage of not having any time restraints — in doing so, the original lack of cohesion seems to reappear as the show eventually starts to just needlessly drift.

I am a fan of the contemporary, beat-up style of Ross, and she has some very strong themes written into Queue, but I cannot help but wonder if the show would be more effective if it were significantly leaner. Its central conceit, that of Will’s struggle with mental illness, becomes overburdened with romance and an unresolved tertiary plot about Will’s terminally ill best friend, Perry (played with a sort of esoteric stoicism by Tom Weingartner); the premise that Will can hear his own background music is a worthy one, and providing live accompaniment with original music to score said background music is a fun and endearing choice.

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Will agonizingly describes this musical torment directly to the audience and to Perry (who, by the way, is dying). Then the plot comes in with a love interest who “cures” Will throughout most of the middle of the performance, thus eliminating the most pivotal element of the story.

Unfortunately, this love interest, Abigail, is also written rather inconstantly, vacillating from a very forced “quirky” to a more down to earth, human tone; both of these are played with an adept charm and polished craft by Lisa Marie Smith who can easily transition from one to the other — it would nice, though, if she didn’t have to. Perhaps if the Abigail plot had its own play, the character could be given the space she needs to naturally develop instead of throwing herself at Will after knowing him less than five minutes (and taking a position as his superior at work).

In the meantime, Will’s best friend Perry is dying. Abigail and Will quickly become an item, turning the rest of the play into a romantic comedy until the second act seems to have an “oh, yeah” moment and throws Will’s background music back into the plot, which is then very easily tidied up by having Abigail start to hear it moments before the play’s conclusion, but she’s totally cool with it, so, problem solved? And Perry is still dying.

This play has so much potential, and can be truly funny. Ross has a knack for creating the lovably downtrodden and plucky. Should she go on to revise Queue again, I will certainly be in the audience.

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