On Sept. 28, the Penobscot Theatre Company put on a performance of the production “Clarkston,” which is based on the play written by Samuel D. Hunter. The play was directed by Johnathan Berry, the new director of the Penobscot Theater Company since July. Opening their 49th season, the production ran from Sept. 15 until Oct. 2.
“Clarkston” tells the story of two Costco workers in Washington state, and explores how rolling with the punches is hard when your future and present are an uncertain mess. Redemption and renewal can be something you search for, but where you find them might not be where you first started.
“Clarkston” was surprising from the start. At first, it felt like a comedy, with relatable dialogue that talked about scary stories and food. Then, out of nowhere, the play goes dark. The dialogue shifts to talk of suicide and death as the characters talk of their regreatable life choices.
This change in genre was even more shocking due to the small production size. Since there were only three actors on the stage, the audience develops a bond with these characters.
Jake, played by Daniel Skinner, is a young kid from Connecticut with a fascination with Lewis and Clark. He was recently diagnosed with Huntingson’s disease. His reserved but artistic co-worker Chris is portrayed by Carter Scott Horton. Chris has never left Clarkston. However, through his relationship with Jake, he addresses parts of himself he had been ignoring. The two manage to capture moments of hatred and sexual tension effortlessly. We notice that these two characters from different upbringings have similarities in subtle ways. The other actor on stage is Chris’ drug-addicted mom Trisha, portrayed by Jenny Hart. Hart’s portrayal is extremely sympathetic, and it makes the play’s conclusion all the more heartbreaking.
“Clarkston” is set in the real life town of Clarkston, Washington. It’s on the border of Washington and overlooks Idaho from the Snake River. The play is centered in a Costco warehouse and the only other location they travel to until the very end of the play is the parking lot. The Costco set was simple yet effective. It was interesting to watch as an entire scene was spent pitching a tent, just for it to be torn down. The symbolism of rebuilding the tent like the rebuilding of the relationship between Jake and Chris that was happening was a great visual.
For the audience, I felt like some of the dialogue was lost on them. For me, who grew up in Washington state, laughing at Idaho is second nature. The very first scene discusses how Jake traveled to Washington in order to see the ocean, which is what drives the play. I could not help but laugh, as does the local character Chris, as the ocean is five hours away and Idaho is landlocked. However, there were a few lines that even Orono locals could understand.
“You get used to the smell of the paper mill,” Chris said.
Unfortunately, some of the play was predictable. Some scenes the audience clearly knows what is going to happen. However, this does not taint the hope that fuels the play.
The company’s next production is “Max & Ben,” a play written by Mindy Kailing and Brenda Withers. It will be directed by Lavina Jadhwani and will run from Oct. 20 to Nov. 6.
For more information about upcoming productions and performance times, head over to their website https://www.penobscottheatre.org/. The Penobscot Theatre Company is located at 131 Main St., Bangor.