Have you ever had a friend that you were really jealous of? I sure have! Truth be told, more often than not, competition and jealousy creep their way into many of the friendships I have forged, and particularly so when professional ambitions and/or love interests overlap. Such is the situational context of Theater Wit’s The Four of Us.
Set atop a simple contemporary stage in a small and intimate theater, the play explores the way competition taints the friendship between two budding writers attempting to make a name from themselves and each score the big mula. The
Four of Us, examines the relationship between two college roommates, Ben and David, and the turbulence they go through as they compete for success in their respective writing careers. The funky, hip-hop music combined with the simple, modern set laid the stage for the contemporary, young feel that the play exuded. I felt the play particularly apt for younger audience members, like myself, not only because of the age of the two characters (in their 20s), and the time periods it took place (1997 and 2007), but also because of the themes that were explored---sex, young whimsical love, concerns about the future, and the oftentimes naïve desire to "make a name" for oneself in the world. Nonetheless, it appeared that all members of the audience, regardless of age, were enraptured by the themes and receptive to the humor of the play. The notion that only a few aspiring careerists (in the play, Ben rather than Dave) make it big and successful while the others falls to the wayside I found particularly poignant given the economic context we Americans find ourselves in today, where supply and demand yield far less than fruitful results for many of us. The light-hearted conversations the two characters had in their dormroom in Prague, surrounding sex, love and fears of the unknown reminded me of the conversations I had with my roommate in college, and it brought a particular air of familiarity and humor to the play that brought me in and connected me to their stories despite my distance from the world of writing.
In Itmar Moses's The Four of Us, the eccentric and animated character of David, played by Usman Ally was a fitting counterbalance to the more nerdy, rigid character of Benjamin, played by Collin Geraghty. While at the beginning of the play, it seemed that David was the more confident character with the slick social skills and surety in himself, as the story unfolds the status roles rapidly switch. As David learns about Ben’s success with his new book, and as the book goes international, Ben becomes the more confident of the two while David seeps into despair and insecurity. David becomes almost a lackey to the budding Ben, losing his sense of independence and creativity as he submits himself and his creative pen to the more stable and corporate career path, that of working for Ben. While I felt the two characters connected well to each other and committed themselves to their roles, at times I found Ally’s eccentricism and immaturity unrealistic and Geraghty’s transformations from his rigid, distanced personality to a more likeable, approachable version of himself inconsistent and hard to follow. In the end, when the status roles switch again between Ben and David, there is hope that the underdogs can achieve success, too. Benjamin experiences his own pangs and sees what it is like to be a struggling, not so-well-perceived writer, while David gets a leg up in his playwriting career and gets his piece performed at a local playhouse . For those young creative people out there, like me, there is hopeful opportunity that with hard work and patience, you can prevail and make landmarks for yourself, whether they be large or small. If you want to be happy and continue to pursue your interests, you ultimately must “risk something,” as Dave says (and does).
While the play was quite funny (particularly in the scene where Ben has mock sex with a lifesize teddy bear), and while the play explored very relateable topics like friendship and jealousy, I felt the play dragged on too long and ended unsatisfyingly. I personally felt The Four of Us would have ended quite well in the second to last scene, at the end of David’s onstage play, with the two characters watching David’s success from the sides. However, the play ended with a farcical, parody-like camp scene, which seemed to try to highlight the friendship between the two characters by returning to a fond memory in the past. It seemed out of context and sappy, and would have been more appealing to me had the the play ended in the present day rather than in the distant past.
Overall, however, the recurring humor, the relationship the two actors built with each other, and the themes regarding the ups and downs of success and maneuvering one’s way through friendship all left me at least temporarily fulfilled. While it was certainly not my favorite play, I appreciated the issues the play raised regarding friendship and the pervasive human struggle to attain success, regardless of the costs along the way.
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