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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

somewhere never travelled disappoints



By Rucy Cui     4/14/11 7:00pm


Martel College sophomore Maggie Sulc tackles difficult subject matter in writing somewhere never travelled, exploring ideas like artistry, the city and love. In general, however, it's an overambitious first attempt, never quite achieving what it so grandiosely sets out to and coming across as hoity-toity as a few of its characters.

The play starts off swimmingly enough, introducing Lucy, played by Duncan College freshman Megan Troxell, the artist and Noah, played by Martel freshman Chase Sandmann, the boy she decides to photograph for her show after stumbling across him studying in the park. Like in a typical young adult novel, they invariably manage to grow closer despite their differences — which, by the way, are huge, ranging from Lucy's daunting experience in both nightlife and relationships to Noah's downright awkwardness — and become an official couple. After weeks of bliss, unfortunately, things start to come apart in a way that's even more forced than their romantic connection to begin with. One scene in particular, during an open mic night that's ripe with possibility and suggestion seen a mile away, serves to underline their differences and undermine their relationship. He's just a "computer geek," he can't compare to the hunky artists vying for her attention, he doesn't fit in with her friends: Despite Noah's apparent consciousness of his inferiority, the ending is so drawn out and cliché that it's laughable.

Not performed on a stage, somewhere never travelled is a different experience because problems like bumping into props or forgetting lines are more noticeable than usual. One of the first scenes, where Lucy drags Noah to a tea house to quote poetry at him, is disappointing in that the audience can rather obviously tell their cups are empty, the pot is empty, they aren't drinking anything at all the whole time! The set is sparse and Victorian with, at one point, a single wooden chair in the middle of a space that's understood to be a studio.

Despite the details that drag somewhere never travelled down, there are also truly great characteristics that give Lucy and Noah the nuances to become more than a jumble of lines in a script or a mishmash of storybook-like inflections in front of an audience. Lucy isn't perfect, but she does have some unabashedly realistic gestures, like when she unplugs a computer full of Noah's work to get him to go sightseeing. Her eccentricity almost stresses the sense that she's a concept, not a character. Meanwhile, Noah's startle reflex is a running gag throughout the play, and coupled with the fact that he's a hilarious drunk, slurring and stumbling his way through segments that might otherwise just be studies in lost momentum, he's a pleasure to watch. One scene in particular involves the alcoholic content of mouthwash, and has the audience in fits of giggles.

The two performances that steal the show are those of Lucy's bartender Harry, played by Hanszen College sophomore Michael Cheng, and Noah's best friend Dwayne, played by Martel sophomore Ariel Heiblum. The certain blunt wisdom that Cheng brings to his role of "another guy totally in love with the resident cutie but who only mixes her drinks" is genius. His edginess is what makes him intriguing and sets him apart from the rest of the cast. Likewise, Heiblum delivers his lines, some of the funniest in the play, with a straight-faced and wry sort of inflection. He seems like he's not afraid to laugh at himself, and that type of freedom in his acting is perceptible. It's refreshing, a real gift to the audience.

My biggest problem with somewhere never travelled is its dependence on stock characters to propel the story toward its somewhat contrived, predictable ending. Although I'm sure they aren't written with the intention of being derivative or stereotypical, it's very hard for me to believe that the love interest Lucy is anything more than the quintessential manic pixie dream girl or that, by default, Noah exists for any other reason than to act as a vehicle for embracing life and its infinite adventures. Add the fact that the two leads have no romantic chemistry whatsoever, and somewhere never travelled becomes a disappointment. For every gem in the script — "It seemed like a dating algorithm!" — there were also lines that fell terribly flat such as, "I saw [your] wall, but I saw it as a challenge." This is a play that wants to pack insight and verve into its overdone love story a la Annie Hall or 500 Days of Summer, but it just ends up feeling stagnant and stilted.

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