TALHOTBLOND by Katherine Bates brings to The Ruskin Stage a true story of computer sex and major delusions. Early on in cyberspace, users called local Bulletin Board Systems like Modem Butterfly on telephone modems that had no graphics to speak of and only the imaginations of the users to spark their social interests. Even then, the concept of Hot Chat was a major attraction. Excited early social networkers, connected simply with words before the explosion of Facebook and MySpace, faster computers and wifi created soft and hard core porn.
This sad tale of a middle aged man (Mark Rimer as Thomas Montgomery) “stumbling” into a teen chat room, devising a nom de plume “marine sniper” and being smitten by the handle ‘talhotblond’ is not new. The award winning documentary “Catfish” also explores the world of being swept away by imagined love and obsession.
Bates’ play begins with a shadow tease of “tall hot blonde” Jenny (Erin Elizabeth Patrick). It's a prelude to the piece which evolves slowly and sadly. There’s little to recommend the story except that director Beverly Olevin has her actors keeping the pace and doing their best. Jeff Faeth’s sets are multipurpose and serve. Projections reveal chats between Jenny and not only Thomas, but another suitor, co-worker Alan Garrett (John-Paul Lavoisier).
The underlying sadness and tragedy of how anyone may be so swept away by fantasy lacks essential power to bring the audience emotionally into the fray. Thomas's feelings and commitment waffle back and forth time and again, even in the face of his being found out by his wife, Cheryl (Katleen O’Grady). Unlike Catfish where, in the documentary, we see the principals gradually emerge and the woman who has created her fantasy character revealed, Talhotblond sadly emerges only as a postscript.
By Katherine Bates
Ruskin Group Theatre
3000 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 2PM
Through April 26, 2014
$25 / $20 Seniors, Students and Guild Members