Terrence McNally has distinguished himself many times in his career. And he has awards to demonstrate his outstanding skills as playwright, screenwriter and librettist. How puzzling, then, to see one of his early plays, Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone? Written in 1971, and first produced at The Berkshire Theatre Festival, where it has just run a second time, the play is terribly dated, poorly crafted and of little interest, except perhaps to nostalgic theatre diehards.
The sub-standard quality of the script is matched by a weak production, so it becomes impossible early on to separate the text from its interpretation and treatment. E. Gray Simons III directs a young and largely inexperienced ensemble. They give their all, too often trying to make up in energy what they lack in technique. And Brian Weaver, playing the title role, fails to create a character of any depth or charm. Left to carry the weight of the production, this late 60's Candide favours flippancy over purpose and prefers glibness to outrage. Robert Serrell, though too young to convince us of the generation gap that seems to central to McNally's whining, manages clarity of thought and precision of language enough to get past the stage and reach the audience.
The set, designed by Ian Zywica, is fun to admire prior to the performance, but its bright colours and imposing images upstage the action and serve only to hobble the production further. Simons' sound design is also fun to listen to and, frankly, is the most entertaining part of the whole enterprise.