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In the depths of the Adams House basement, Austin Grossman shares his vision of one man's mid-life crisis. His humorous, though often inconsistent, script is complemented by polished acting and directing. And flashes of strobe lighting add to the Uses of Enchantment.
Uses of Enchantment is the story of Richard Raymond (Jonathan Weinberg), a biochemistry professor who, on the eve of receiving Harvard's Littauer award, is gripped by the need for introspection. Through a series of flashbacks, the audience meets: Darryl Parsons (Justin Levitt), Raymond's high school lab partner and companion for Dungeons and Dragons; Raymond's father (Theodore Hong), who quizzes the boy orally on SAT math questions; Darryl's father (Austin Grossman) and Raymond's teenage blind date, Renee Davis (Bianca Hovey).
Grossman's script has some delightfully lighthearted segments. Richard describes "the basic love equation"--"We set the value of love as an arbitrary constant...Figure has an affect sum as a real and not an integer of the domain zero less than L less than two." Later, when teaching Raymond to fight, Darryl explains, "Every human being is born able to hunt and kill to survive. But you don't see it much in the suburbs." Grossman's script captivates during these moments when the dialogue is not overtly philosophical.
The performance lags when Raymond tries to psychoanalyze himself. At one point, he tells the audience that his mind is not "primarily a means of understanding the world but of gaining recognition from an otherwise indifferent adult world." This insight seems too academic for a man who moments before was pounding the walls in frustration.
Despite the script's trite monologues, pithy remarks on reaching adulthood redeem Raymond's believability. One such comment--"You've already been pulled in on one drunk driving charge and your girl-friend's pregnant and there's not much new on TV these days."
Weinberg's acting also breathes life into Raymond's persona. He alternates smoothly between boy and man, subtly shifting body language and tone of voice. And his endurance--an hour and 45 minutes worth--is remarkable.
Levitt shines both as the teenage Dungeons and Dragons maven and later as a beer guzzling husband. Levitt remains in character even when none of the stage lights are focused on him, and he commands the audience's attention with his sustained energy level.
As Jerry Parsons, Grossman gives perhaps the most professional performance, developing a character sketch through details, such as the way he holds a pair of eye glasses. Especially while searching for a set of lost keys, Grossman seems completely comfortable and confident on stage.
Hovey is charming and demure as a shy adolescent and Hong is appropriately stiff as Raymond's over-bearing father.
The set is effective, cleverly divided into sections representing present and past. And Matt Weiner's lighting, especially his use of a strobe light during a fight scene, adds to the drama.
Thus, although the script drags in sections, it is saved by high quality acting, blocking and lighting. Grossman's numerous talents are displayed through his Uses of Enchantment.
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