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You May Go Now’ covers lots of ground without reaching its destination

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Powerful subjects are presented in insulated ways in Cockroach Theatre’s latest production.
Jacob Coakley

The Details

Two stars
YOU MAY GO NOW
Through March 31; Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; $15-$18.
Art Square Theatre, flavors.me/cockroachtheatre.

Bekah Brunstetter’s You May Go Now, produced by Cockroach Theatre and playing at Art Square Theatre, plays with fire but never truly burns. The play starts in a ’50s domestic training ground as a perfect housewife, Dottie (played by Anita Bean), schools her daughter Betty (Brenna Folger) in the proper way to make a cake. When Dottie kicks Betty out to begin her life—in the present-day world—things spiral out of control. There’s a suicidal (and deceased) husband Robert (Joe Basso) and a hunky boyfriend (or long-lost brother) Phillip (Alex Olson) thrown in for good measure.

Under Erik Amblad’s direction, the production takes on an incredibly arch tone—to an extent where an actor breaks the fourth wall for no apparent reason. Rather than make any of these characters or their emotions more real, it only highlights the intense artificiality of it all, though maybe that artificiality is called for, since the play’s final benediction—that without a child you “might as well be dead”—is repellent.

Bean seems frustrated by the role of Dottie, as if the character keeps slipping from her. When she loses the arch layers you can see her character’s wounded desperation (when she takes off her wig, it’s a subtle but powerful moment), but Bean has a hard time keeping that truth alive when acting as Dottie believes she should. As Betty, Folger pushes the comedy in a likable, fresh-faced way, the opposite of Basso’s Robert, whose hangdog expression mitigates his malevolence. Olson’s Phillip is all different directions, earnestly pursued, to little effect. TJ Larsen’s set looks great, a wonderful homage to ’50s style, but the counter in the middle of it all too often blocks important action upstage.

Grief, self-abnegation, self-fulfillment and the construct of marriage are all powerful subjects, and You May Go Now touches on all of them without fully realizing any. The artificial life Dottie has created for herself insulates her from her searing emotions, and this production insulates the audience from them, as well.

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