Contributed by Rob TennantPlan-B Theatre Company’s world premiere production Wallace is the story of two writers who called Salt Lake City home and it is already sold out. Sorry. Performances were added due to demand, but those are sold out too.
The writers in question are Wallace Stegner, the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning “Dean of Western Writers,” and Wallace Thurman, a queer black man who made his way to New York City and and into the core of the the Harlem Renaissance. He went mostly unpublished and remains largely unremembered. The juxtaposition of these two stories of disparate experience and divergent success is at the center of Wallace. Written as two solo plays, Stegner’s story comes through Debora Threedy and Thurman’s from Jenifer Nii.
This unconventional collaboration is the source of much of Wallace’s strength. The two characters, sharing the stage for most of the show’s 80-minute run, though only briefly and obliquely talking to each, if at all, have strong and distinct voices which Richard Charine (Stegner) and Carleton Bluford (Thurman) fully inhabit.
At the same time, the two pieces fail to mesh well. Though understandable for a show about such different individuals, I kept waiting for a thematic convergence that never quite materialized. Nonetheless, Wallace is a compelling piece of storytelling which has inspired me to investigate the work of these two home-town writers. If it has the same effect on the rest of the audience, then it’s definitely a success.
Wallace, Plan-B Theatre Company, Studio Theatre at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 200 South, 801-355-ARTS, March 4-14