Stating the obvious doesn’t typically work in one’s favor, and that’s certainly true when it comes to a play’s first line. But that’s exactly the trap Stephen Belber falls into in his unsurprising and unsatisfying new drama Joan. As the show begins, Joan draws a deep breath and declares with grave sincerity straight at the audience, “There are times, as we live, probably too many, when who we are and who we want to be, don’t match up.”
Well, duh. Tell us something we don’t know. That uneasy feeling of been-there, heard-that is hard to shake in this premiere production directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt for Colt Coeur at Here Arts Center through Feb. 16. Over 100 unbroken minutes, we follow the complicated, often irritating Joan through her experiences as a daughter, sister, wife, lover, photographer and mother in search of fulfillment and satisfaction. That sounds like a cue for a Rolling Stones tune. Instead, “I’m Every Woman” blares as Joan dances in a New York City club, underlining the play’s themes a bit too tidily.
In Match and Dusk Rings a Bell, Belber took a linear approach to exploring characters whose lives don’t go according to plan. Here, he hopscotches back and forth and back again through the years. The time-jumping approach is innately theatrical and challenges actors who must switch from being one age and sexual persuasion to another in a blink. Johanna Day, who plays Joan, along with Adam Harrington and the wonderful Marjan Neshat as various men and women in Joan’s life, give finely focused and textured performances that don't quite compensate for the script.