What happens when a balding, 47-year-old man with a wife and teen-aged daughter is invaded from cyberspace by an 18-year-old femme fatale who calls herself “Talhotblond”? That’s the question posed by Kathrine Bates in her new play Talhotblond, now having its world premiere at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica.
Thomas Montgomery (Mark Rimer) is bored with his wife of 17 years and his job at a company that creates and distributes computer games. So when Jenny, the tall hot blonde (Erin Elizabeth Patrick) hacks into his computer and begins a conversation with him, he latches onto it as if it were a unique new game. She sends him a pin-up picture of herself and his fantasy takes flight.
He responds with a photo of himself as he used to be: a handsome young Marine, and adopts the screen name “Marine Sniper”. And he imagines scenes between his younger self (played by Ben Gavin) and Jenny as their relationship gets steamier and more intimate.
Although Thomas insists to himself that this cyber affair is just a harmless diversion, he soon becomes obsessed with Jenny and begins to imagine leaving his wife for her. Meanwhile, Jenny’s provocative photo starts turning up on the computers of other men in the company. Most especially the computer of Alan Garrett (John-Paul Lavoisier), who shares an office with the enthralled Thomas.
As Alan pursues a romantic relationship with “Talhotblond” Thomas becomes jealous and irrational and initiates the first of several angry breakups with her. At this point Thomas’ long-suffering wife Cheryl (Kathleen O’Grady) has figured out that something is wrong. (After all, who takes his wife out for a romantic anniversary celebration by taking her bowling?!)
Having discovered his correspondence with Jenny, Cheryl is devastated. She begs him to break off the relationship, and he promises that he will. But he doesn’t. Instead, he succumbs once again to Jenny’s endearments and protestations that he is the one she loves. And in the end, there is a murder.
This domestic tragedy is based on a true story. It was made into a feature documentary by Emmy award-winning journalist Barbara Schroeder and was adapted as a play by Kathrine Bates, who is perhaps best known for The Manor, a mystery inspired by events in the history of Los Angeles’ Greystone Mansion. Bates has done a serviceable job of fleshing out the story of Talhotblond, but in the end there isn’t enough THERE there. Too many repetitive scenes of Thomas either angry or anguishing and Jenny teasing or pleading.
Director Beverly Olevin doesn’t help much by loosely steering a largely unconvincing cast into an emotional morass. And, most disturbing, there were an inordinate number of interminable blackouts. At least when a television drama is interrupted by endless commercials it leaves you free to get up and go to the bathroom, or make yourself a hot fudge sundae. A long blackout in a play just leaves you shut off and sitting in the dark. Worst of all, there were no scene changes; the set remained untouched, so why such long blackouts? How long does it take a player to change his shirt?
Talhotblond can be seen at the Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Avenue in Santa Monica Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 through April 26th. Call (310) 397-3244 for tickets.