“Dennis Wilson Forevermore: A Beach Boy’s Fable,” is an attempt by writer Eric O'Meara to illuminate the clash of Dennis’s inner demons and artistic endeavors. However, it disappoints when classic hits are replaced by cheap mimics, performances slack, and the plot is altogether muddy, clichéd and much too long.
The direction by Natalia Lazarus leaves this play confused. It’s littered with profane language, an unnecessarily vulgar Charles Manson side story, and plenty of Scooby Doo-esque moments where Dennis tries to rile up his bandmates for rehearsals and studio sessions during times of low morale.
Despite glimpses of a do-gooder attitude and big dreams, the protagonist is written plainly and without that witty creative insight that’s expected of someone so prolific to music history. Dennis Wilson (Ryan Boone) binge-drinks, gambles, cheats on several women, and does drugs in obvious rocker clichéd style. The case for this is the abuse suffered from Wilson’s father, Murry Wilson (Glenn Ratcliffe) who also manages the band. He’s portrayed as a villainous perfectionist, always drinking a bitter whiskey and chucking insults at his children. “You’re always letting everyone down, Dennis.” He repeats, and from this tragic beginning the play spirals into a typical tale of a rare talent succumbing to the dark side of fame and substance abuse. This is a story too often told and in this case with straightforward dialogue holding no eloquently, intricacy, or anything new.
Dennis cries over his situations, more than once, in what seems like a failed attempt to force the audience to feel. He comes across as selfish, self-indulgent, and especially emotional besides Brian Wilson (John Staley) who gives a more delicate and impactful performance. Towards the second act, Dennis Wilson’s drinking becomes unmanageable and he is kicked out of the band for unruly behavior. When propositioned by bandmates to join them in a large European tour the dialogue is so simply derogative that it’s absurd.
“How long are we on tour?” Dennis asks.
“Three months! That’s asking a lot of my binge drinking.”
It’s important to note that set design by Argent Llyod is effective for the small space given. Stairs lead up to an impressive makeshift stage for their performances, Dennis’s boat house is to one side and the studio is at the other. Surf boards carved out by artist Jim Rajner hang on the walls and help with a Californian vibe. But, this play is a far cry from that easy going Californian attitude. It is a melodrama with profanity that doesn’t cater to its audience, that comes across as a mockery rather than a tribute to the legendary band its modeled after.
Photos: Courtesy of Dennis Wilson Forevermore: A Beach Boy’s Fable