THE PAVILION, Gift Theatre Company, at Victory Gardens Theater. Old regrets, dashed dreams, lost loves--these pretty much sum up Craig Wright's sweet little play about an unhappy psychiatrist who goes to his high school reunion hoping to hook up with the girlfriend he abandoned 20 years earlier. Wright tries to make his play seem deeper than it is by stealing a lot of "avant-garde" staging devices from Thornton Wilder's Our Town: minimal sets; short, sparely written scenes; even a philosophy-spouting stage manager.
Wright is a facile, witty writer with a knack for believable dialogue and strong if mildly sentimental metaphors: the pavilion of the show's title, the repository for everyone's memories, will be burned to the ground by the fire department as soon as the reunion is over. None of Wright's gifts, however, can disguise the blandness of his story and characters. His male protagonist is a drip from the moment he enters, and no plot twists make him any more likable or interesting. Most annoying, he ends up blaming his father for the biggest mistake of his youth. His estranged sweetie comes off a little better, in part because Lynda Newton's heartfelt performance gives the role extra heft. It speaks volumes about the play that its best character is Brendan Donaldson's witty, kindly, godlike narrator--a mere storytelling device.