Stonefish at Greenbelt Arts Center

Amanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom

Stonefish is an original play by Erica Smith and directed by David Dieudonne.  Without wishing to spoil, Stonefish revolves around fraternal twins Mason and Dixon (both played by Amanda Zeitler) their younger brother Lewis, (Ren Stone) their father Stan, (Sean Butler) and their piano teacher, Christopher (Matt Baughman.)  The play itself deals heavily with grief and trauma.

There is little one can say about the plot without spoiling the thread of the story except in that while it is a clever concept, it is sometimes muddled both in writing and in attempting to differentiate between Mason and Dixon. While this is certainly an inspired production with a strong cast, this is the biggest cog in its wheel.  And if the blur between the siblings is intentional, it does not make it more satisfying to the audience, who is meant to wonder what was a mistake and what was intentional.  That is also to speak of the driving motivations of the siblings in this show; we never quite know what they want or why, even as the angst of the play is pushed forward.

None of this should detract from the positive qualities of Stonefish.  Amanda Zeitler carries the show and has good chemistry with each fellow actor who in turn does well with their respective roles.  Stone in particular— as the younger brother Lewis— gives a charismatic performance, and the deeper concepts behind the story: grief, deception, family, and guilt, are apparent even if they are not fully formed within the narrative.

The show is technically sound, with good set design (courtesy of Joy Wyne) and simple but effective lighting and sound (by Don Slater and Rich Frangiamore respectively.)  The costuming (by Stephanie Yee) is good, but does not show enough of a style difference between Mason and Dixon, which again, could be an intentional choice, but the intentionality is unclear.

The thrust behind the show is promise; there is plenty of potential both on and backstage and for the most part it does deliver a compelling story, but does not deliver a satisfying conclusion.  This is not to say the show’s story is without merit.  Smith writes the story with an investment and care for each character and their respective relationships, and it helps that it these relationships are carried out by talented actors with strong direction from David Dieudonne.  The stakes between their interpersonal relationships feel authentic, between the writing, direction, and performances.  While there is less thematic payoff than expected, it is still compelling.

Ultimately, Stonefish, though not without its flaws, is interesting, fresh, and honest.  And it is a story we have not quite seen before.

Running Time: Approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes with one intermission

Stonefish plays through January 20, 2019 at the Greenbelt Arts Center— 123 Centerway in historic Greenbelt MD. For tickets call the box office at (301) 441-8770 or purchase them online.

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