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Miami’s “When We Get Good Again” Will Be Good Again and Again

Review by Rachael Lombardo of “When We Get Good Again”: Miami University theatre

Though the world hasn’t seen “When We Get Good Again” again and again to know if it’s the show to see, I certainly believe we will be seeing it again and again for quite a while.  A new play written by James McLindon, it had its first ever seen workshop performance at Miami University, and an excellent choice to perform it there for a number of reasons.

The play focuses on college students who are struggling with their grades and need to pay someone for some…”tutoring,” and the college student that can deliver a good paper for the sake of paying for school.  M.U. was a great place for this production as there are actual college kids to play and relate to these characters, as well as being in the right academic setting to nourish the creative flow of making something new together, which is this brand new play on which McLindon still takes notes to consistently rework and make stronger.  It’s a wonderful learning process for students involved and playwright alike, much like the strong message of learning and its meaning in the play.

One of the most insightful things I heard from the playwright (and yes, he flew all the way out to Oxford, Ohio for the first couple rehearsals and opening night) was that making new pieces and working with people who are ready to make this thing happen is much like the musical “Brigadoon,” where a village appears every 100 years.  The correlation to him is that it is every so often when that cast comes together to put on that show that really makes it different from the last and making a new piece brings a breath of fresh air and curiosity, much like receiving a wonderful new play every once in a while and putting it on and making those discoveries.

Jamie Chmielewski (Tracy) brings a relatable vibe that any student struggling with money, education, dreams, and important choices can relate to, and juggles chill and panic naturally as she struggles to come to terms with her job of writing term papers.

Tanner McCormick is funny and quirky in his role as Perry, Jamie’s mentor, who is often rather clumsy and awkward, rising to the great challenge of finding the most responsive way to say a line or move about.

Jordan Meyer, as Ukrainian student Nadiya, pulls off an incredibly difficult British-English-Ukranian-trained accent–as she explained she was coached by Artistic Director, Julia Guichard–and it is incredible.  She incorporates that accent and identity to separate herself from her American perspective beautifully and is very endearing.

Jesse Dever plays the hockey player Roy as both teddy bear and jock all in one, but not necessarily in the trope you would assume.  He manages to flip the teddy bear role into more than cuddles; it’s intimacy he offers.  And the jock isn’t the dumb jerk, he’s an ambitious person that tries to make the right decision.  A very refreshing split from the norm.

Lewis Magruder directed this in a fun yet educational style, where a marriage was made between the academics and creativity involved in making the play with the playwright’s guidance and the students’ readiness to play.  And allowing a student director, Kyle Carson, is always a smart choice for the obvious academic and experiential benefit for the student. For the purposes of this play, I can sense Carson had a great say in perspective to help keep Magruder in consistent mind for the demographic, and he did very well.

Melanie Mortimore made very wise decisions in her costume designing to the point where her work was effortless.  She recognized the demographics at hand; there wasn’t anything odd to take me out of the college setting in the play and real life, and made me feel ready for my winter wear!

Dramaturgs Caleb Russell and Michelle Guiot have clearly put together the whole package that started the rehearsal process on the right foot by bringing student insight as well as university code research.

I watched as Stage Manager Julia Burkholder and Assistant Stage Manager Maia Aoibheil seamlessly start and shut down the show, a very tasking feat for any stage manager, let alone college students learning the trade and operating while a talk back is taking place.

Scenic Designer Todd Stewart made some wonderful cozy choices for the set, as it was a coffee shop the entire time, and if you’re going to sit in one set for the entire duration of the show, what better to place to feel at home than a cozy little coffee shop?  And it’s Christmastime in a college town, we’re already gearing up for it!

Lighting Designer Marly Wooster and her Assistant Lighting Designer, student Julie Whapham, were on the same page of thinking through all the various lighting that can go on in a coffee shop, and paired with the scenic designer’s layout of the room, you could easily distinguish the outside versus the inside based on the types of lights and signs.

If you want to experience a show in workshop mode and see how amazing it can be when it’s trying out its sea legs, take this chance now and go see “When We Get Good Again” at Miami University, through October 6th. Tickets are available at
http://www.miamioh.edu/cca/academics/departments/theatre/production-season/index.html .