March 20 - April 13, 1986, the Salt Lake Acting Company presented
WHEELS. James Morrison authored this play.
Familiar to local audiences for his acting ability, James Morrison will be featured
locally as a playwright when his first play, IDLE WHEELS, premieres this week.
The action of the comedy takes place in a mobile home in Alaskas Totem Pole Trailer
Park where Pinky, Doris, Buck, Dodie, Sherry and Buzzy reside. The plays central
character is Buzzy, a young man who goes through a rite of passage during the course of
In the third act of IDLE WHEELS Doris gives a vivid description of Alaskas Good
Friday earthquake, "The cupboards flew open, cans began to fly and the fridge opened
up and spewed food every which way."
A similar bombardment is aimed at the audience. While it is often very funny, and at times
poignant, the potential impact of the work is buffaloed by multiplicity of subject matter.
One minute it is revealed that a character is being beaten by her husband, in the next the
audience is exposed to a fleeting discussion of racial discrimination, and then to the
subject of alcoholism and later to child sexual abuse.
All are relevant topics for examination, but placing them together results in an outline
of the problems-plaguing-modern-man, and leaves little room for substance or resolution.
Like the ground during the earthquake, the subtexts shift constantly and radically.
Exciting? Yes. But like all intense fluctuations in reality, it leaves you wondering
exactly what happened.
Morrisons characters are defined, colorful and struggling. Unfortunately, the
presence of six such intriguing creations in one production makes any depth of insight
The fact that director David Kirk Chambers assembled a group of actors that bring
sincerity and vibrancy to their roles makes the textual problems all the more distressing
in terms of "what might have been."
David Valenza gives an edge of innocence to his portrayal of Buzzy Greybill, the young man
struggling with transition. While Buzzy is often angry and sometimes violent towards his
stepfather, Vanlenzas approach goes beyond the "angry young man" and roots
his characters outburst in an understanding of their source.
Particularly moving is the third act in which Buzzy and Sherry, played by Sharyn Jensen,
attempt to reconcile the past. Leaving the crowded trailer house for the calm, natural
environment of the outdoors, the two are liberated from their restrictive, complicated
relationships with their parents.
Both are then free to be young, innocent and openly confused -- about their connection to
each other, their parents and humanity as a whole. The scene is enhanced by the haunting
design of Buzzys hideaway.
Cory Dangerfield did an excellent job in designing both the interiors of the trailer and
the environs that provide Buzzy an escape from his tortured reality. Here, with a small
hut, oil barrel fire and totem pole, Buzzy performs ritualistic chants to summon up the
Raven, an Eskimo legend representing for Buzzy a method of learning how to break away.
Meanwhile, back in the trailer, theres a celebration going on. The parents of both
Buzzy and Sherry are engaging in a festive tribute to the birth of Sherrys father,
Micaela T. Nelligan, as Doris, gives a strong performance as the ever-pleasing mother of
Buzzy and wife of the offensive Pinky, played by Don Glover. Complimenting the raunchy
Pinky is Bucks wife Dodie, the engaging lush played by Carolyn Braza.
Buck, played by David Jensen, is the least aggressive of the foursome -- on the surface,
at least. Buck is a soft-spoken, unassuming man with the precarious position of balancing
the strong, over-bearing personalities of his counterparts. In the final scene, Buck must
confront his guilt over sexually abusing Sherry when Buzzy, after learning of it, attempts
to retaliate. Jensen effectively maintains a studied control over his character.
Morrison describes his work as very much a comedy adding, "It is a bitter cold comedy
without Eskimos." Bitter cold comedy, why? "Its funny, it takes place in
Alaska, there are no Eskimos in it, and it has some serious bittersweet overtones."
Synopsized from a review by Keri Schreiner for the Salt Lake Tribune.