Sol is in trouble. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot write anymore. He can drink. He can make a mess. He can whine. He can speak with great eloquence. He can have a nervous breakdown and chat with literary figures of the past. But he cannot write. He didn't even win the poetry contest he entered. His wife did.
And here's where Two Days 'Til Dawn, by Tyler Ham Pong, starts to fall apart. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it splits into two.
On one hand, we have Sol's fantasy world. Pong shows some originality here, and while the visits from the literary figures are a little mannered and predictable, they are intriguing. The play that takes place in Sol's head has the potential to be an interesting one.
The play that takes place in Sol's life, however, is overloaded and unrealistic. Sol's a novelist, so his wife keeps asking him why he writes poetry at all--but he came in second in the contest, which surely shows some talent. And while his wife is worried that Sol will find out that she won the contest--she entered anonymously--it turns out that he has known all along. But there is no explanation of how he knows, which makes it sound as though there are maybe five poets in the entire world entering contests.
Also, while the prize for the contest is never specified, it sounds like much more money than any poet ever gets for anything. Sol also seems to have made an unusually large amount of money for his fiction. And all this matters, because it turns out that Sol's brother Charlie has been stealing from him due to jealousy, resentment that Sol never told Charlie that Charlie was adopted, and greed. This ostensibly major revelation has little emotional punch because the audience hasn't had the opportunity to get involved with Sol and Charlie as people, and because the combination of the writer's block, the writing competition between the spouses, Sol's nervous breakdown, and Charlie's betrayal is too much for a one-hour play. Oh, and there's maybe a baby who died and maybe a pregnancy now.
The play might have come across better if director Laura Sisskin-Fernández had insisted that her actors consistently enunciate and project, and if she had enticed better performances out of the three supporting cast members. On the other hand, Geoffrey Pomeroy as Sol is nothing short of amazing. He inhabits Sol fully and bravely, and he makes sense of the character's ups and downs and ins and outs, even bringing a bit of charm to his despair.
While there is much wrong with Two Days 'Til Dawn, Pong is a writer to keep an eye on. He aimed high with this show, which is admirable, and there were definite moments of wit, lyricism, and intelligence.
(press ticket, fourth row on the aisle)