Honing in: Mark Snyder's As Wide As I Can See

Everyone has had that moment: You hear someone say a phrase or sing a lyric to a song and you realize that you have been saying, and therefore meaning, something completely different. People confuse words like "home" and "hone" all the time, giving their language an unintentionally metaphoric dimension. In this example, "hone" means to sharpen, and "home in" to get closer to something, whereas "hone in" creates some sort of hybrid meaning of sharpening closer or coming closer to a sharpened point.

The title of As Wide As I Can See, presented by At Hand Theatre Company at HERE, comes from a similar sort of malapropism which then becomes the (un)happy metaphor for this play about the lies we tell ourselves about our own lives. This version of "as far as I could see" becomes the baseline example for the ways in which the characters base decisions off of their own mistaken interpretations.

Just as the example I gave above, these slippages can create an interesting space for new kinds of meaning, and As Wide As I Can See has a good concept in its attention to these moments of re-definition. It is an interesting and entertaining show, but certain characters in Mark Snyder's script seem undeveloped and neglected, which leaves the play with some strong moments, but an overall uneven feel. Combined with some line trouble, this production is good but not (yet) great.

This is the hardest kind of show to review: one that has a good concept and strong ideas, but is not quite at its highest level. I believe that this play has something to say, and there are plenty of strong moments. At the moment it seems to contain extra scenes, and I think that a dramaturg could help to streamline the structure and make it more powerful.

The plot concerns a man named Dean (Ryan Barry) who lives in a house with his girlfriend Jessica (Julie Leedes) while his best friend Tyler (Joshua Levine) and his girlfriend Nan (Kay Capasso) live in a trailer in the backyard. Jessica and Dean are going to have a party and a woman from Dean's past named Charlotte (Mélisa Breiner-Sanders) ends up coming, stirring up convoluted memories of/from the past. This is really where the play's action begins, but Snyder has been setting the scene up for quite a while before we reach this important junction.

Dean is well-played by Barry, which is good because this is clearly Dean's play. Snyder's female characters mostly take a back seat to their male counterparts, falling back into stereotypes even when they explain themselves. Jessica is the worst victim of this, her character is written so flatly that the few moments where Leedes is able to break out of the writing, including a small comic gesture after the exchange of two particular items of clothing, are refreshing. Nan is the only woman who seems alive, and Capasso's easy comic timing is a real asset to the production.

Dan Horrigan's direction and the acting were generally good, though on this particular night there was a great deal of line flubbing. I always hesitate to mention something like this, as it is an inevitable aspect of live theatre. Yet it becomes another matter when it is distracting throughout a production. I hope this will improve within the run, because it was frustrating mostly because I was drawn in until these moments of rupture continued to occur.

Despite this room for improvement, I enjoyed this production. The issue of broken dreams in small town America is often tackled on stage, but As Wide As I Can See brings new ideas to the conversation. I'm especially intrigued with the setting of a party as the place where people are confronted with the truth about themselves in a kind of modern male version of Mrs. Dalloway. This play also breaks a lot of the stereotypes it sets up, causing us to reconsider our own biases and assumptions about these characters.

New plays with something to say are always worth going to see, and Snyder does indeed have a lot to say. I would encourage both playwright and company to keep working with this play, as it is something good that could certainly grow to be great. They are honing in on their target right now, but it is by homing in that they will find success as wide as the eye can see.