‘Fractal’ explores nature of relationships

Feb 11, 2014
Photo by: Betsey Feeley Belfast native Jake Tremblay of New York City, left, and Brad Fillion of Rockland play a gay couple at odds about same-sex marriage in the staged play reading of “A Natural Fractal,” concluding this weekend at The Playhouse in Belfast.

Belfast — In November 2012, Maine became the first state in the United States to authorize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Leading up to Election Day, hundreds of volunteers worked in a carefully orchestrated campaign to sway public opinion. Phone-banking — real-person phone calls to selected voters — proved an invaluable tool.

Belfast resident William Nelson's new play “A Natural Fractal” follows a team of campaign volunteers over a series of summer evenings when they meet to phone-bank for marriage equality. In the course of engaging strangers in conversations about very personal matters, they share their dreams and disappointments, triumphs and defeats.

In rehearsal since January, the two-act play is presented as a staged reading Fridays and Saturdays through March 1 at 7 p.m. at The Playhouse, 107 Church St. The readers use just enough movement and gesture to convey the play's action. Audience members can expect to hear a measure of coarse and colorful language.

“I helped out with the campaign the summer before last and attended training sessions for phone-banking,” Nelson said. “Phone calls seemed potentially very effective and at the same time difficult, awkward, even unnatural. I've never been one to talk freely about personal relationships, much less sexual involvements, and here the campaign was asking us to do just that.”

Taking up the challenge in Nelson's play is a mix of characters from different backgrounds and with different aims. Young Robbie sees marriage equality as an historic milestone — not so his boyfriend Steve. For hard-boiled Sally, it is a step in the right direction … but she's not holding her breath. Marriage didn't work for Michael before, but he still has hopes. Gracious Fran has volunteered for the sake of her daughter. Leading the team is Alex, an engaging political operative.

The play is not a propaganda piece or an infomercial about gay marriage, said Nelson, and it does not represent a particular standpoint.

“I saw a very unusual situation shaping up with the campaign — vehemently political yet intensely personal. I wanted to bring this phenomenon to the stage and delve into it, turn it over, seek out some insight and understanding,” he said.

Mirroring the crew of volunteers, the cast of readers is a remarkable assortment of talents from Midcoast Maine and beyond. Tabitha Ordway of Rockland will read street-wise Sally, and her real-life fiancé Brad Fillion is Steve, Robbie's skeptical boyfriend. Jen Wendell of Lincolnville will portray unflappable volunteer coordinator Alex, and Belfast's Diane Coller Wilson reads dedicated mother Fran.

Also from Belfast are Dan Kirchoff, who voices star-crossed lawyer Michael, and Ellen Marlow, who portrays a college student with an unresolved past. Artist and gallery owner Jonathan Frost of Rockland takes a turn on stage as artist and gallery owner Owen, host of the phone-bankers. Belfast-raised actor Jake Tremblay, now pursuing a career in New York City, will come home especially to read diehard romantic Robbie.

The door will open 15 minutes before curtain. Seating is limited, and reservations are recommended by calling 338-5777. A donation of $10 is requested, but not required. Proceeds benefit The Playhouse Children's Theater program.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Volunteers in political campaigns often have personal agendas. Dan Kirchoff, left, and Jake Tremblay play two such people in “A Natural Fractal.” (Photo by: Cay Outerbridge)
Phone-banking for marriage equality has its light moments. Jen Wendell, left, of Lincolnville and Tabitha Ordway of Rockland are pictured in the staged play reading of “A Natural Fractal.” (Photo by: Betsey Feeley)
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