It’s taken me a few days to process Too Much, Too Much, Too Many. That’s a good thing mostly. I like plays that make you think. But, it’s a play that touches on themes that are hard. That’s also good in this case, but hard none the less. Plays that upset me are not ones I usually enjoy, but this one might qualify as an exception. As we deal with an aging population and one that sees the devastating effects of diseases of the mind and memory that we can’t yet cure, these cathartic plays are cropping up more and more. Coping plays. These are personal, far too-close-to-home themes for me to be honest… and thus the emotional barrels are fully loaded coming into this production. That predisposed emotion both validates and artificially amplifies an experience I think; but I suppose every life experience has that potential – to move you more or to repel you further from the moving reality witnessed from the dark of an audience.
It’s at first a disjointed play. Abrupt. A staccato presentation almost until a good third of the way into the first act. This seems partially intentional in its effort to authentically represent the key themes. What we know and what we think and what is repeated and what is clearly missing, all plays a part in the pacing and the style of the storytelling.
There were a few parts that were seemingly unpolished or awkward though, perhaps less deliberate. There were some lapses in generally good chemistry between the 4 characters, some staging that was obscured, and a few minor sight line challenges disappointed here and there. The music, though nice, seemed primarily anachronistic as well; neither clearly narrating nor transitioning, neither ambient nor serving as a clear memory for the play. And, I wasn’t sure of the location to be honest. There’s mention of Midwest cities and a drive, and it’s clear it’s a small town, though accents seem almost southern. Not sure it mattered, but it nagged at me for a spell. This play requires a bit of patience, it’s a bit frustrating at times, but the bright moments are absolutely priceless and well worth being there for.
And, the brightest of the bright was the character of Rose. How she is written and performed is indeed the standout of the production. There is genuinely heartbreaking, beautiful poetry in her speech and her story and the delivery is impeccably poignant and enthralling. She is balanced, devastating, and humorous and the entire audience breathed in her complete circumstance effortlessly. She is a tribute to love and to loss and we could not take our eyes off her. She slays this performance any way you slice it.
Emma is troubled and distant as is requisite for her journey and her performance and her arc definitely warm to you along with the rest of the play. Our Pastor is likeable, sweet, and a lovely counterpoint to Emma’s closed off, calculated, sabotaging demeanor. James is confusing at first to be sure, but it becomes clear why that’s the case as we progress.
I’m always interested to see a play I’ve never seen before and in this case never even heard of before. At its core, it has some challenges, but overall once we invest, once we let down our guards and let it in, the performances and the message in the prose do present silver linings, resolution that is both sorrowful and sweet, and a play that is supremely liberating. 4 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a strangely romantic and painfully sentimental piece sure to resonate with many. Too Much, Too Much, Too Many plays through April 10th at the Dragon Theater in Redwood City.