The unanswered question

As Things Remain

Josephine Hall and Greg Alexander doing backyard romance.

Josephine Hall and Greg Alexander doing backyard romance.

Photo By Jill Wagner

Rated 3.0

Melissa is a strong, independent British woman who has come to America determined to find the answers to the daunting questions that have plagued her ever since she was a small child. Why did my father send us away? Who was he? Why did my mother hate him so?

With his recent death, she inherits her estranged father’s house. Now, at long last, she may be able to learn the answers to those questions. There are just two things standing in her way: an outgoing neighbor with amorous intentions and an inept electrician of dubious qualifications.

The plot thickens as Melissa discovers that the answers to all her questions may be locked in an old trunk full of letters and journals that her father saved. To her dismay, the trunk is now in the possession of … the lovelorn neighbor who is more interested in getting her to have dinner with him than revealing the contents of the old trunk.

“Would you like to have dinner with me?” he asks hopefully as his eyes meet hers.

“Perhaps when I get settled in,” Melissa answers noncommittally, trying to edge away from his stare.

“Great. What kind of meat do you like? I cook beef mostly.” His voice is exuberant.

“Anything but pork,” she answers making her way to the door of her house.

“Ah … a vegetarian,” he quips.

As Things Remain is the B Street’s seventh world premiere holiday comedy, following in the theater’s tradition of presenting original works during the holiday season. Though the play is set in the final days before Christmas, don’t expect the story to revolve around the holiday season nor any warm tidings of Christmas cheer. Though it has a holiday motif, it is not a Christmas show nor one for the entire family to enjoy because of the more adult subject matter.

Written by B Street cofounder and producing director Buck Busfield, who is well-known on a local and national level for his talent as a playwright, As Things Remain is the sixth play Busfield has penned for B Street holiday presentations.

It is unfortunate, however, that this season’s effort falls short with awkwardly incomplete scenes, forced plot points that go nowhere and underdeveloped, clichèd characters.

British actress Josephine Hall tackles the stiff-lipped, no-nonsense character of Melissa. Making her debut on the B Street stage, Hall delivers a delightful performance that is perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of this production.

The character of James, portrayed by local actor Greg Alexander, comes off as a wacky, slow-witted country bumpkin who somehow magically mutates into a lovable, intelligent, leading man. Though this evolution is too abrupt to be completely believable, Alexander nonetheless manages a nearly flawless and quite enjoyable performance.

The character of Ginger, played by Anthony Shank, the electrician hired to rewire the inherited house, is sadly little more than poorly added comic relief. Complete with a mutating Hindi-Latino-Valley accent and all too predictable farce-like antics, the role provides some laughs but mostly serves as a pointless distraction in an already muddled plot.

The production relies too heavily on contrived and all too convenient plot points, failing to deliver a solid, well-constructed ending and leaving too many loose ends and unanswered questions to several of the biggest questions the production presents.

As Things Remain is an enjoyable, romantic comedy with a plethora of potential and some truly inspired moments, but this production will need a few rewrites before it takes its place among Busfield’s better works.