Into the jungle

Dayton Theatre Guild’s two-person show ‘Slowgirl’

By Jacqui Theobald

If you like the small plays, the kind of piece that can dig into your heart and pose gnarly, moral questions, featuring a pair of charming characters, then Greg Pierce’s “Slowgirl” will be your delight. It opens Feb. 26 and runs through March 13, weekends, at the Caryl D.  Philips TheatreScape, 430 Wayne Avenue, Dayton, 45410.

“Slowgirl” has two characters: Sterling played by Peter Wallace and his niece, Becky played by Jenna Gomes. They are not supposed to be a well-balanced duo; each has a different tempo. He is isolated and contemplative. She is a chattering 17-year-old, full of opinions and observations. However, about his boundaries, habits and activities she seems obtuse. He’s left a bit breathless with her personal questions, although eventually they find a comfort level and begin to reach each other.

Sterling is living reclusively in Costa Rico when his quiet life is pierced by her sudden arrival. She has been sent to him by her mother who wants to get her out of town for a little while, and out of the glare of public censure.

As they begin to actually see each other and begin to hear the emotion protectively kept inside and reluctantly touched or revealed, they slowly find their own rhythms.

Rick Flynn directs the two-person piece.

“I have been intrigued by this challenge; much of what we learn as directors suggests there should be intense dynamics between a pair alone on stage,” he says. “As I‘ve worked with the script and with the actors I’ve come to see that it is all right to let the two just speak to each other. They can be natural.  They don’t have to be grandiose. It’s a character-driven play.”

Jared Mola is assistant director. Flynn says, “I believe the assistant should have input, not just fetch coffee. We really value Jared’s creative ideas and suggestions.” They compared this play to “4000 Miles” recently done by the Guild with Mola wearing his actor’s hat for that one. The New York Times also compared that work by Amy Herzog with Pierce’s work.

“Slowgirl” not only debuted at the Claire Tow Theatre in Lincoln Center in January 2012, it marked the debut of a new theatre, opening the multi-million dollar small house designed to focus on new works and new playwrights, situated on top of the famed Vivian Beaumont. It is the third Lincoln Center theatre.

Greg Pierce’s work was deemed “beautiful and sensitive” by The New York Times. He was subsequently asked by John Kander to work with him on book and lyrics for a new show. Kander had not collaborated with anyone since the death of his long-time professional partner Fred Ebb in 2004.

That effort resulted in The Landing a triptych, last spring at the Vineyard Off-Broadway and was praised as a “beautiful and haunting musical.” The playwright is the nephew of David Hyde Pierce.

Early in the rehearsal sessions, Gomes and Wallace each said being on stage with only each other for the entire duration of the no-intermission ninety minute play was a new experience. “We are also finding how it will work for us, what feels right.” Neither has done a two-person play before.

Wallace is an experienced actor, capable of a fine range, from serious Shakespearian roles to light weight comedy. Gomes has done a variety of roles at University of Dayton and at The Playground Theatre and was recently seen in “The Columnist” at the Guild.

“I am intrigued by the puzzle of good guy/bad guy,” says Flynn. “Issues are not always clear. Seldom clear.”

Sometimes people make bad decisions. They fail to notice when they could and what they should. That’s part of Sterling’s situation, a criminal issue with his former law partner.

Sometimes people are insensitive and self-centered, not necessarily only the young. But in this case it is the problem for Becky who got a kick out of watching and encouraging a classmate (the slow girl of the title) to drink and with wings attached, somehow to believe she could fly. Now Becky sees and is running away from possible serious consequences for her after the slow girl’s tragedy.

K. L. Storer, long active in local theatre and particularly at the Theatre Guild, is responsible for sound design. But there’s a larger story here.

“I suggested it to the Play Selection Committee,” he says, “after I first saw it at Steppenwolf in Chicago in 2014. I admired the work of the actors and would love to have auditioned for it, myself.”

But he was stopped by the heart attack he had a couple of months ago.  Even so, from his hospital bed he told producer Kathy Mola he wanted to do sound for the show.

He was cheered by thinking about the effects he could create for a jungle, always keeping them unobtrusive and appropriate to the scenes. He’s given voice to Costa Rico.

Wendy Michael designed the island cottage, beautifully rustic with construction and ornamentation by Blake Sensemen, John Spitler and others. Lights are by Jadon Bischoff who is new to the Guild. Costumes are by Carol Finley. Jared Mola did props.

Dayton Theatre Guild presents “Slowgirl” Feb. 26-March 13 weekends at the Caryl D. Philips Theatre Scape, 430 Wayne Ave. in Dayton. Tickets are $13-$20. For more information, including a complete list of show times, or to purchase tickets, please visit

Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at

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Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at

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