SALT LAKE CITY – I love attending plays that I know nothing about. I arrive as a blank slate with no idea of the plot or premise about to be presented, and my entire experience with the piece is shaped by what happens on stage. This doesn’t always go well; I’ve sat through a lot of shows whose target audience didn’t include me. But with plays like Silver Summit Theatre Company’s The Pavillion – plays uniquely suited to the stage where actors are tasked with guiding audience members through an experience as well as a story – discovering the play as it’s presented couldn’t be more rewarding. And for this reason, I’m going to try to reveal as little of the plot as possible in this review so my readers can have the same experience when they attend. So, if this review starts to feel cryptic, just know I’m doing it because I care about you.
The set for The Pavillion is just three benches and two platforms, as designed by playwright Craig Wright. These benches represent whatever the actors need them to be at any given time, which works especially well since the play relies far more on the characters’ interactions with each other than with their surroundings.
Allen Smith and Cami Rozanas play Peter and Kari. All the action in the play revolves around them. Brian Pilling and Julie Mylan Simonich both narrate and play the roles of every other person Kari and Peter encounter. With impressive alterations in mannerism and speech, the two narrators guide the audience through laughs and heartache as the two narrators morph from one character to another.
It was easy to sympathize with Smith in the role of Peter. His charisma mixed with humility made him the easy everyman. Peter’s emotional experience felt believable, and even though some of his actions weren’t necessarily within social norms, I didn’t have a hard time understanding why he would behave as he did.
While the experiences of Kari were just as easy to buy into as Peter’s, Rozanos played the role with a sharply contrasting cynicism. While Kari didn’t express the same easy charm as Peter, Rozanos used a wide range of emotional coloring to make her character feel just as real. Their chemistry grew over the course of the play, making the nature of their relationship become more and more interesting.
Brian Pilling (playing a narrator and every male character except Peter) displayed fabulous comic timing and seemingly boundless energy. The characters he represented experienced the gamut of emotion, and he perfectly portrayed each of them. And without sacrificing the authenticity of any character, Pilling never let a joke flop.
Julie Simonich (who played a narrator and every female character except Kari) felt genuine in each of her roles, and she adapted from one to the next seamlessly. She pulled humor out of situations that could have easily become uncomfortable. And Simonich’s charisma made it so none of her array of characters felt artificial.
Directed by Michele Case Rideout and Amy C. Allred, the play was fast paced and made creative uses of the Sugar Space’s minimal sound (Mikal Troy Klee) and lighting (Austin Stephenson). Craig Wright’s script is beautifully written, and even as the very talented cast spouted one quotable line after another, they all did so with such a lack of self-consciousness that it seemed perfectly natural for people to speak so poetically.
I hope I’ve made it obvious that I loved Silver Summit Theatre Company’s production of The Pavilion. In addition to being entirely entertaining, this play uses the unique quality of the stage to present a story that wouldn’t have the same effect if the story were told on film or any other medium. The script is beautiful and poignant, the cast each have the talent required for their complex role, and the combined efforts of everyone involved make for a memorable evening.