There’s something surreal to me that instead of seeing “Lee’s Miserables” tonight at Sycamore Rouge – a show that I expect is a bit dark and tragic and gritty – I’ll be seeing a preview of “Forever Plaid,” a show with a decidedly peppier take on death. That’s the way the schedule bounces, I guess. I’m trying hard not to make it into a bigger existential statement about my life and decisions I’ve made (as the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from “Life of Brian” streams through my head…)
What I would hope with “Miserables” is that Clay MacLeod Chapman, who is an amazing writer, shows growth as a dramatist. As I said in this review of his “Volume of Smoke” at the Firehouse a while back, Clay does individual scenes very well. But connecting them together in a trajectory of some sort and establishing characters whose relationships grow and change is still something I haven’t seen a lot of in his work. Some of his most intriguing characters in his “Pumpkin Pie Show” stories have been outsiders, misfits or otherwise estranged. For someone so good at capturing estrangement, developing connections dramatically seems to have proven a challenge. I say this with the caviat that I haven’t read most of his stories or his novel and with a reiteration that I have found some of his individual scenes, vignettes and images absolutely stunning.