“The Minutes,” by playwright Tracy Letts, is both a biting satirical skewering of beloved and beleaguered elected officials on any American town council. But this satire has a dark, foreboding underbelly that leaves the audience questioning everything.
The cast and crew of Peppermint Creek’s season opener does a plausible job of creating the beloved, befuddled rascals of local politics anyone can recognize. The council of Big Cherry is meeting, in private, to discuss city business, but newcomer Mr. Peel is trying to understand where fellow councilmember Mr. Carp has gone.
Peel, played Edward Heldt, is the innocent do-gooder serving in public office to improve the community he has moved into with his wife and daughter. Heldt’s innocence and earnest presentation is a delight to watch, as his colleagues on council dodge his questions, pivot away from answering specifics and push him to support their upcoming proposals. He’s a much smaller fish surrounded by sharks and this dawns on him.
A standout performance is delivered by Doak Bloss as the tottering elder council man Mr. Oldfield. Every small-town council or village has the older timer on the body who is anchored in the past. Bloss’ Oldfield captures that as well presenting an innocent and somewhat addled elder, who may just be the keenest character on stage.
Joe Dickson as Mr. Hanratty is blissfully potent as the councilman on a mission. His frustration and astonishment at his colleagues’ decisions is palpable and entertaining – without stepping outside of being exceptionally human.
In the role of the missing councilman, Mr. Carp, Matt Land delivers a powerful, thoughtful performance that begins to shift the play’s narrative into a darker world. Director Mary Job says in her director notes it’s like an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” and that’s a pretty accurate sense of the surreal that Land’s appearance beckons in.
While the show is overall worth the fun of poking at politicians, the performances are uneven created a disjointed presentation that would have benefited from a cohesive piece. Pacing of the piece also catches snags, giving the audience time to contemplate and question the satirical world before them. That can be deadly to satire.
Letts’ piece is likely Peppermint Creek Theatre Company’s its last nomadic show for the foreseeable future. The company has joined with Sycamore Creek Church to develop and use a performance space at the church on Lake Lansing Rd. in Lansing Township. But that space wasn’t available for this show, directed by Mary Job, and so the company lugged itself to a Sycamore Creek Church location at 1919 S. Pennsylvania Ave. in Lansing.
As a result of sharing the space with an active worship community, the setting of just a few tables and chairs is lost for many in the audience due to it being on the same level. Artistic Director Chad Badgero says that’s why the company is raising dollars for the ‘not sexy’ cause of risers for the audience for the new space.
“The Minutes” continues Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. For more information, or tickets, visit Peppermint Creek Theatre Company.
Todd Heywood is digital reporter at 6 News. He’s an award winning actor and director, with professional and community theater credits spanning over 30 years.