None Too Fragile is building a fan and audience base, as was clearly seen at a recent showing of its current production – Joe Roland’s “On the Line” – where the seats were filling up fast, and heard by way of comments before and after the play and on social media. That’s awesome news for this group.
“On the Line” is bound to up the stature. It’s a riveting play, and in the hands of director Sean Derry and a solid team of three actors, it can bring the audience to its feet, as it did at a recent Friday evening performance.
Joe Roland’s story is about a strike at a factory and the toll it takes. We’ve all seen enough plays and films about strikes (think “Billy Elliott” for one) to know that not much good is going to come out of a walk-out and lock-out strike.
Same goes for these three guys – Dev (played by Robert Branch), Jimmy (Mark Mayo), and Mikey (Andrew Narten). Best friends since first grade, a rascally Three Muskateers-like trio even in adult life, fun-loving in a working class sort of way, and settled presumably for life into factory jobs on the production line, the three characters walk through the process of gearing up for and coping with the strike that is surely coming.
When it does, each one goes a different way. Mikey takes a job for the management side; Jimmy accepts a union administrative position; and Dev leads his fellow workers to the strike line.
What’s “on the line” in the play becomes subtly and compellingly apparent. The town where they live seemingly has been built around and dependent on the factory. When things go to pot, it reels throughout the town, taking its social and economic toll on all residents. Resentments build of course.
They build as well among the three friends. Each thinks his decision can somehow help them out, but that’s not how it plays out. Emotional and financial burdens become too hard, and the wear and tear is on their friendship, particularly between Dev and Mikey. They represent the dichotomy between the management and labor sides – with all the distrust and dirty dealing that can instill.
The drama is an emotional roller coaster, and Derry’s direction keeps the speed and pitches of the ride right on mark. These characters work and play hard; that’s clear from the stories they tell of each other. When the strike is called and the lines are drawn, they react just as dramatically and as decidedly.
The play’s conclusion is well worth the wait.
Joe Roland’s “On the Line” will be performed through August 24 at None Too Fragile at Pub Bricco, 1841 Merriman Rd., Akron; 330-671-4563; www.nonetoofragile.com. Performance times are 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and there will also be two special performances on Sunday, August 4 at 2 p.m. and Monday, August 5 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 (or pay-as-you-can).