PROVO — Often, when I walk into a small theatre to see a new work, written and directed by local artists, I have two thoughts. I hope that this will be the show to remind me that there are talented artists living all around me who can put real effort and thought into new work. Then I prepare myself for the possibility that I might see a show thrown together with high hopes but little vision. To my relief, I found that my hopes were fulfilled and my worries were soothed as I was entertained and touched by Dial Tones, a show written, directed, and acted by local artists.
The show, described by the Covey Center website as a, “humorous tale of a very unique love triangle” taught me a little something about the definition of a “love triangle” and the ability to find beauty in the love we see around us. The play follows the plight of the telephone, or the artificial intelligence that is the telephone, as he first unites two strangers by playing a joke and connecting their calls. Then, he must works to keep these two people together. The real story comes from the two people who make the most of an accidental phone connection. This story is then given a spark by being set in the 1980’s.
I was intrigued by the ability of the playwright, J. Scott Bronson, to create an entire world and love story using only telephone conversations. The easiness of the dialogue united to audience to the characters. Bronson’s writing was relatable and casual enough to create a connection with the audience but heightened enough to entertain and create interesting characters. Some of the jokes didn’t hit home for me as they felt routine for new works produced in this area, but most of the writing was sweetly simple in a way that really worked. While I loved the dialogue, it did feel like the same conversations were dragged on a little too long. I did feel the audience getting a little restless towards the end; this may have been in suspense to see what happens in the story, but it may have also been the length. A little more variety would have easily fixed that and brought the audience back to the outstanding characters that were written.
Some of the directing and staging choices were immediately successful. The director, Lynne D. Bronson, chose to focus on the relationships and didn’t burden the characters with too much to do or carry around. The characters were free to transform what was a telephone conversation into a real conversation, unburdened by chords. The tiny space was also used very effectively. My doubts about small theatres were quickly overcome with the way the director chose to use the space.
The favorite part of the night for me, by far, was the performance given by the young strangers. Kelly, played by Brian Kocherhans, and Hazel, played by Jessica Myer, gave honest and believable performances. Myer was delightful with her ability to naturally shift from the intelligent and challenging demeanor that her character tries to put on to the insecurities that bubble up. Kocherhans, however, gave the standout performance of the night for me. His portrayal of Kelly was charming and vulnerable. The audience was immediately onboard with him as he navigated this strange relationship. The character of The Telephone (J. Scott Bronson), was entertaining but kept me a little less captivated than the other two. His commentary and witty insight kept me laughing but his opinions on love seemed to be played all on the same note.
While a few edits here and there may have been useful, I was impressed by this local work. The cast and crew showed that great art can and should be produced in small theatre spaces in towns like Provo, Utah.