“Shifting Gears” – Theater Works

This review aired on KBAQ January 26, 2015



Theater Works, Peoria Center for the Performing Arts

Peoria, AZ

It’s nice that Theater Works offers an occasional world premiere play.  But if a playwright is willing to present a new work at Theater Works, the play is probably not the best and that’s the fate of “Shifting Gears” that’s continues through February 1.

Written by local author Richard Warren, “Shifting Gears” is littered with every tired cliché character situation imaginable and the predictable dialogue is unimaginative and dull.  There’s not an original thought in the boring script and the ragtag production is embarrassing from lethargic and meandering staging to some of the worst acting ever witnessed on a local stage.

The play’s premise is simplistic.  We are at a longtime family summer vacation cabin in the early ‘60s during Kennedy’s presidency.  Henry, the bombastic, know-it-all father, owns his small business.  His henpecked wife, Annie, has kowtowed to Henry for years but, like many wives of the period, she’s sharper than Henry but afraid to reveal it.  There’s two grown children, Karen and her older brother, Junior.

During the intermission, any reasonably perceptive theatergoer can guess what happens in the quickly resolved and totally predictable second act.  Henry has a stroke.  Facing a slow recovery, his able wife Annie takes over his business and runs it superbly even though Henry has his doubts about her.  Annie, it turns out, ran the business and brilliantly during Henry’s World War II stint.  Junior doesn’t want Daddy’s business as Henry planned and Karen seems more like a struggling teenager than the 20-year-old she claims to be.  Everything is resolved just as you suspect but I won’t reveal the ending to challenge attending theatergoers intuitions but be assured that there are no surprises, no hidden character traits so life goes on as the evolving ‘60s thinking impacts the family’s preconceived ideas.

Daniel Schay’s pokey staging and painfully blah acting make the bad play even worse.  Frank Gaxiola makes the one-dimensional Henry so hatefully predictable that there’s no way an audience can care about the character or his fate.  Veronica Carmack’s bland Annie has none of the imagination necessary to make Henry’s business a success.  Katie Czajkowski’s Karen is a scatter-brained teenybopper instead of the 20-year-old she’s supposed to be.  Sky Donovan never displays Junior’s thoughtful maturity.  A drab set and unoriginal lighting makes the play visually lifeless.

When attempting something new, Theater Works must present a viable play and “Shifting Gears” doesn’t achieve that mandatory goal.  With “Shifting Gears” it’s back to the drawing board for the playwright.  For tickets, call the Theater Works box office at 623-815-7930 or order tickets online at www.theaterworks.org.

Grade: F