About a decade ago, Butler University Theatre premiered “Luke’s Father and the Sled,” a big, sloppy, fun play by Dan Barden about the denizens of a multiplex movie theater. The show’s centerpiece was a memorably epic food fight that left the stage a gooey mess.
Barden, a professor of English at Butler and author of the novel “The Next Right Thing,” returns to the stage this season with a more focused play, “Pigeons,” also world-premiered by Butler Theatre (Feb. 20-March 3).
Its characters, all women, are recovering alcoholics, hovering around and wandering in and out of an AA meeting. One is waiting for someone but resistant to telling who that mystery person might be—in seeming violation of a culture where sharing is what you do.
It’s an interesting world, with Barden treating each of the characters with respect and dignity. But the youth of the fresh-scrubbed cast robs the characters of the necessary gravitas to make the play wholly successful. Only in rare moments did I feel the truth of their pain and struggle. And the mere one-hour length didn’t allow for a depth of discovery that could have made a stronger impact.
Still, there’s beauty and empathic tenderness in the hopeful piece—one that I hope takes the next step, whatever that might be.
Want more of university talent? The first Butler ArtFest runs April 18-28 and features more than 40 performances—including work by Butler Theatre, the Butler Symphony Orchestra and Butler Ballet--in and around the new Schrott Center for the Arts. Details here.