Center Theater

Inside George, receiving its world premiere at the Center Theater, is much ado about nothing. For two hours the title character dithers and frets, unable to declare his feelings for Pamela, a woman who obviously cares a great deal for him. Then, when he finally works up the courage, nothing much happens anyway.

But lack of action isn’t the real problem. Contrary to what the title implies, George has nothing inside him. He’s a cardboard cutout of a character who exists only as a pose. Even though he’s supposedly the author of ten books and three novellas, he doesn’t say anything even remotely interesting. And when he tries to express himself, he tends to generate bloated, pompous prose. “I’m stuck in a web of fiction I created, impaled on my dreams,” he whines. His basic problem–“I’ve never experienced love”–has possibilities, but playwright Dan LaMorte displays little interest in this aspect of the character. George’s failure at love is just a plot contrivance, with no motivation or authentic emotion behind it.

And speaking of plot contrivances, Inside George consists of almost nothing else. The play opens with George sprawled facedown on the floor, a detective drawing a chalk line around the body. As Pamela tries to answer another detective’s questions George springs to life, and the rest of the play is a flashback leading to George’s death. We see George on dates with Pamela, and complaining about his stalled love life to his agent (who effortlessly picks up a waitress at the restaurant where they go for breakfast). We listen to George’s numerous monologues commenting on his problems. (“Oh my God!” he cries during a date with Pamela. “What am I going to say? She expects me to bare my soul.”) At a cocktail party, George acts out a fantasy in which he destroys each annoying guest, using imaginary machine guns, grenades, and dynamite. Why is he so upset? No reason. The scene is just supposed to be funny. The most conspicuous feature of George’s personality is his tendency to zone out during conversations, as though lost in thought. This does nothing, however, to establish him as a deep thinker, especially after he uses the phrase “Beam me up, Scotty.” While giving a speech about marriage based on his magazine article “Say I Do” George is heckled, but the heckling is vague and pointless, and George reacts to it with mere befuddlement. Even his death at the beginning of the play, it turns out, is a contrivance.

As George, R.J. Coleman works very hard to infuse his character with energy and affability, and he does succeed at creating a quirky personality; but despite his admirable efforts, Coleman can’t bring motivation or even coherence to the character. And Marie Jagger, as Pamela, makes a very appealing potential lover for George. She doesn’t portray Pamela as a flesh-and-blood character but as George’s idealized vision–an attentive, perpetually smiling friend with a hint of maternal concern. I don’t know if this was an interpretation imposed by director Kevin Rigdon or a spontaneous choice by Jagger, but it works wonderfully.

Still, Inside George is a confused mess, false to the core. It’s hard to believe this play would have been staged if the author weren’t also the artistic director and a founder of the Center Theater.