Thinking about cheating on your wife? Maybe first you should take in Andy James Hoover’s Corner Pocket (directed by Bridget R. Durkin). After an evening of watching recently murdered professional pool player Glen O’Hara (James Liebman) juggle the ghost of the wife who is accused of murdering him (murdered herself soon after), his not-so-grieving girlfriend (who bounces back surprisingly fast), and the two sisters who work to make sense of his tragic ending (one wild and flaky, one ordered and logical) one can easily see that Glen might have been better off keeping his cue stick in his own pocket. Because nothing about what leads up to his chalk outline seems to have been worth it.
Corner Pocket begins with the deceased widow, Manayunk (It’s where I was conceived) O’Hara (Virginia Logan) … discovering she’s a ghost – fated to hang out in her house and watch her husband’s sisters converge until she and her Spirit Animal Guy (a very animated Eric Sutton) figure out her next step, which could be Oblivion, Reincarnation or some other choice — clearly spelled out in a pile of brochures which she’s encouraged to peruse. But Manayunk is having none of it. She’s an angry one – still mad at her husband for cheating on her, now even madder that she’s been murdered. Unfortunately some details of how it all went down are hazy so she’s hanging around till they get cleared up. In the meantime she’s going to wreak all the havoc she can which – to her and Guy’s surprise – is quite a lot. Then again, she didn’t make her way to being a world ranking pool champ by being a pushover. However, this woman is angry – so sit back. This revenge plot could take awhile.
Soon enough Glen’s sisters arrive; level headed Karen (Kari Swenson Riely) the older of the two who carves out a living as a chef and is back at the house to get things in order. Within moments her free-spirited much younger sister Kym (Mary Schneider) arrives with no notion as to what she’s there for except to hang out, talk about what happened, and put various odds and ends into her huge bag. After some exposition and more surreptitious theft ex-mistress (and another world ranked pool champion) Tessa (Alexandra Hellquist) arrives at the house. There’s some arguing, some things blow up, Glen makes an appearance, some people become possessed (or at least, compelled), the past is shown through some flashback reenactments, puppets make an appearance (of both the shadow and hand variety), there’s a fight scene which includes a goldfish, there’s a strip down that leads to a lesbian make-out scene and … let’s see … am I leaving anything out? I may be, but rest assured, Hoover didn’t.
There’s a lot going on in Corner Pocket. To be fair, a lot of the action makes sense. But a lot more of it pulls the focus from the main plot so drastically that it’s difficult for the audience to find the thread back to the main plot whenever it does appear.
In an effort to keep things interesting Hoover has not only written dynamic characters and delivered a thoughtful script (which is where he should have stopped) but then added in far too many bells and whistles, overdressing his story like a Jersey Shore cast member who’s on her way to the club. The script contains just a few too many cutesy movie references, the addition of puppets would have worked better as sound cues and the random partial nudity (all but two characters strip down to their skivvies) seemed pointless (yes, even in the lesbian make-out scene). And I’m someone who’s all in favor of seeing random stripping – if it serves the plot. But very little of anything here served the plot which, at its core, was actually very intriguing and something I would have loved to have been able to enjoy, if only the story could have stayed out of its own way.
Bridget Durkin’s direction is jumbled and overblown with far too much scenery chewing in an already busy production. Characters are entering, exiting and playing from too many spots in the theatre and audience seating blends in with the stage which was distracting and pulled focus. There are moments when there’s so much going on that between the action, the sound cues and the props this felt like a three ring circus. Just because your characters play pool for a living doesn’t mean the action has to ricochet around the theatre like errant billiard balls.
A subtler hand might have eased a few of the crazier angles and let some of the deeper points of the story resonate. For instance, during a moment when Glen is confessing to his wife that he loved his mistress in a way that didn’t interfere with his marriage the moment was genuine and true; you could honestly believe how this man got to the point of being with two women, needing them both equally and not seeing how one had anything to do with the other. This is the heart of the play. This is the very reason we’re here – it’s why Manayunk can’t move on, and why she’s driven by so much rage. But just as the notion begins to crystallize the crazy carnival of Hoover’s story takes hold again and the focus is pulling away in all directions.
Corner Pocket can’t decide if it’s an exploration of the afterlife, an analysis of where betrayal lies within the parameters of a marriage, or just a good old fashioned ghost story. Any one of these paths could have been pulled off well, but all three just didn’t make the braid that Hoover was hoping to execute. It’s a wonderful thing when all the side-plots coalesce into a greater point instead of just creating noise that obscures the main plot. With the right combination of re-writes, new direction and reworking Corner Pocket could be a solid bank shot. But as it stands now it’s a scratch.
~~~Corner Pocket Written By Andy James Hoover Directed By Bridget Durkin . The Gene Frankel Theatre 24 Bond Street, New York, NY 10012 Tel (212) 777-1767 . October 7-23 at the Gene Frankel Theater Thursday-Saturday at 8pm Sunday, Oct. 9 & 16 at 7pm Sunday, Oct. 23 at 3pm Click Here for tickets