Sometimes, watching a play, you fall for a character or characters. You don’t exactly fall in love with them, but you like them. You really, really like them.
Such is the case with the characters of Porter and Heather, played by Matthew A. Tito and Charlotte Grady, in Valdosta State University Theatre & Dance’s production of playwright Paul Weitz’s “Lonely, I’m Not.”
Though Porter has been unemployed since suffering a nervous breakdown four years earlier, and Heather is a workaholic trying to overcompensate for being blind and female in a male-dominated corporate world, Tito and Grady are charming as these two lonely characters find one another. Charming and beguiling.
Tito and Grady have an easy grace with one another, a natural chemistry; their characters seem to really care for one another despite their foibles. They seem to like one another, really, really like one another, which may be why they are so appealing.
Because when it gets down to it, as crazy as they seem to the rest of the characters populating this show, Porter and Heather may be the only two sane people each one of them knows. Or it is their sense of knowing right from wrong that has made them so emotionally unstable.
Now, some audiences will equate their and the other characters’ rough language as an indicator of morality. Make no mistakes. This show is not for children. “Lonely, I’m Not” does not just contain a few curse words or the F-word. No, this show rains F-bombs. In an older time, one might have said these characters cuss like sailors. Nowadays, for anyone who has ever eavesdropped on some youthful, and not so youthful, conversations, these characters cuss like some of the people you know.
This language is all part of the crust, all part of the sad gristle threatening these characters’ lives. Beneath these words and the characters’ circumstances lies a true tenderness, something akin to being as simple, powerful and as life-changing as holding a loved one’s hand.
Tito and Grady are supported by a talented and versatile cast — four other actors who change faces, costumes, mannerisms and more to become all of the other people populating this world. They are Matthew Hogan, Che’la North, Kelsey South, and Dennis R. May. Each one of these fine student actors has multiple moments to shine and they shine on like crazy diamonds.
VSU Theatre & Dance’s H. Duke Guthrie took a risk directing this show. “Lonely” is a relatively new show, premiered off-Broadway in May 2012. It is a contemporary show, more for the modern text generation than the “thees and thous” of Shakespearean theatre. It has an overabundance of language that is unexpected for many area theatres, and may well shock some theatregoers — if you think it will shock you, or you don’t want to hear such language, don’t go.
But it is also a refreshing piece of theatre, something new, something different, something entertaining and poignant. It is something to really, really like. And Duke Guthrie is to be commended for this.
This review is based on Thursday’s opening night performance.
VSU Theatre & Dance presents Paul Weitz’s “Lonely, I’m Not,” 7:30 p.m. today, Sept. 7; 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8; 7:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Sept. 9-11, Lab Theatre, second floor, VSU Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookfield. Reservations, more information: Call (229) 333-5973; or visit www.valdosta.edu/comarts