Tall Tales: “Your Best One,” A Review

Tall Tales: “Your Best One,” A Review

Playwright Meridith Friedman and director Dee Covington, present “Your Best One,” at Denver’s Curious Theatre Company. The show is up through June 10. Our Denver theater critic, award-winning author Mark Stevens, reviews the production. Tickets here.

Colin Covert as Josh and John Jurcheck as David, courtesy Curious Theatre Company.

There is plenty of hurt to go around in Meredith Friedman’s “Your Best One,” the second in a three-play series about the Hoffman family in southern California.

Eight years have passed since events that took place in “The Luckiest People,” a play I did not see during its run in 2017. But “Your Best One,” being given its world premiere by the Curious Theatre Company, offers ample backstory and is easily enjoyed as a standalone.

Bet let’s get back to the pain, which fuels “Your Best One.”

The play opens with Richard and David in David’s kitchen. Richard is sitting and David is going through the motions of being hospitable, uneasiness hanging thick in the room. David is taken aback at Richard’s unexpected presence. We soon understand that Richard and David were partners and David reveals he’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Richard’s father Oscar needs a walker. His home now an assisted living facility. He’s cranky and feisty but his body is giving out. Getting out of a chair is an ordeal. And Richard’s sister Laura aches from the collapse of her family. Laura’s estranged Chinese husband is taking their son Matt with him to Shanghai.

And Richard? Richard’s anguish is deep, though he’s much too cautious to come out and say what he’s thinking—that it might have been a mistake to not stay with David, years ago, because he couldn’t find room in his heart to go through with the adoption of a young boy, a step that would have required sharing David with another.

Randy Moore as Oscar and Erik Sandvold as Richard, courtesy Curious Theatre Company.

That young boy is Josh, now a teenager. He’s a budding actor and, apparently, a star on his high school stage. He’s brimming with confidence. Compared with the other four characters on stage, Josh is irrepressible and carefree.

David’s serious illness stirs the pot. Should he let Richard, a doctor, help him access an out-of-network cancer doc who might save his life but cost a fortune? If he allows Richard to do so, will it give Richard an “in” to restore the relationship with David? Is that something he wants? And Oscar’s offer to pay for David’s access to improved medical care puts a wedge between Richard and Laura over whether that sum should be counted against Richard’s share of the pending estate.

For each potentially melodramatic moment, “Your Best One” injects humor— running jokes and gentle barbs among these well-established relationships. Josh’s brash willingness to ask questions helps to keep things light.

“Your Best One” is tidy. Of course it’s unfair to compare one piece of family drama to the last, but coming after Tony Kushner’s wild and woolly “An Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures” – even the title is wild and woolly – “Your Best One” feels like taking a gentle ride on a sailboat in light chop after riding through a hurricane in the open cockpit of a jet-powered hydroplane.

In comparison with the issues Tony Kushner tackled, “Your Best One” is more compact and personal.

“Your Best One” touches on social media and health care, but only briefly.

“Your Best One” concerns itself with real people struggling with real challenges — aging, illness, marriage, adoption, lost love, second chances, and the definition of family.

As Josh, Colin Covert, a sophomore at Denver School of the Arts, almost steals the show from four seasoned veterans. Covert bounds effortlessly through his scenes with charm and pizzazz. He’s got some great lines and nails them like an old pro.

All the acting (directed by Dee Covington) is sharp.

John Jurcheck, such a reliable member of the Curious Theatre Company, is both stoic and wary as he faces the dire diagnosis and Richard’s return to his orbit. Randy Moore moves around behind Oscar’s walker with all the weight of the world on his shoulders, but letting us see the heart through all the crusty-old-man veneer. Richard is the character who binds the play together — it is his arrival that puts things in motion — and Erik Sandvold gives Richard a fully three-dimensional spin. And Karen Slack shows us, in riveting fashion, the challenge of grappling with big life changes and doing so, or trying, with your chin up.

John Jurcheck as David and Karen Slack as Laura, courtesy Curious Theatre Company.

By the way, kudos to Friedman for a play that puts a gay relationship at the center of the drama and surrounds that couple with support. Josh, Laura and even the elder Oscar are all cool with Richard and David. Their relationship is treated as entirely normal, which of course it is. Oscar’s largesse toward David is touching, but not dwelled upon. It is again, the right thing to do.

I don’t know what Friedman is planning for the third installment of this trilogy, but the forces pressuring the extended family unit in “Your Best One” could be categorized under Capital-L “Life.”

There is no bad guy, so to speak, no clear antagonist. Everyone’s intentions are, in the end, honorable. “Your Best One” concerns itself with real human beings battling forces outside their direct control and trying, despite their pains, to do the right thing.

You might leave the theater thinking of the REM song, “Everybody Hurts” along with that song’s underlying message—you’re better off, much better off, not going it alone.



More about Mark Stevens:

Mark Stevens, courtesy Cyrus McCrimmon

Mark Stevens, courtesy Cyrus McCrimmon

Telluride Inside… and Out’s monthly (more or less) column, Tall Tales, is so named because contributor Mark Stevens is one long drink of water. He is also long on talent.

Mark Stevens was raised in Massachusetts, but he’s been a Coloradoan since 1980.

Mark has worked as a print reporter, ((Denver Post, Christian Science Monitor, Rocky Mountain News), national news television producer, (MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour) and school district communicator. He’s now laboring in the new economy, listed under “s” for self-employed public relations exec.

Mark has published four Colorado-based mysteries, “Antler Dust”(2007), “Buried by the Roan” (2011), “Trapline” (2014) and “Lake of Fire” (2015).  “Trapline” won the Colorado Book Award.  The fifth book, “The Melancholy Howl,” is due out in late 2018.

For more about Mark, check out his website.

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