It's been said that a committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled. And that goes double for playwriting committees — the unfortunate authorial structure responsible for The Cleveland Plays: Part I: Migration, now being produced by Dobama Theatre.
Three otherwise-talented local playwrights and theater artists — Eric Coble, Nina Domingue, and Eric Schmiedl (who also directs) — have joined forces to write the first in a series of plays that purport to grapple with challenges facing our fair burg. In this opening effort, the problem is the brain drain of people leaving town for what they believe to be more promising, career-enhancing destinations.
The result is a mishmash: truncated stories of two families, one in Slavic Village and one in Aurora. Fran (Leslie Ann Price) and Lenny (George Roth) are suburban empty nesters who are going through predictable midlife crises (he's losing juice on his job; she's flirting with a studly architect who's renovating their kitchen). Meanwhile, in the inner city, Nisha (Domingue) is pregnant and wants to stay in Cleveland, but hubby Luke (Robert Williams) has a hot job waiting for him in Columbus.
These not particularly gripping micro-dramas are intertwined with the quasi-mystical appearance of Moses Cleaveland (Michael Regnier), the guy who started this whole mess. Ol' Mose has risen from the dead to find a "herald" who will lead Clevelanders to the next great migration, whatever that might be.
Having nailed down their thematic assignment with dutiful literalness, the troika of playwrights proceeds to craft the script with all the subtlety of a fifth-grade "Learn About Your City" primer. There are so many nationalities, communities, and historical milestones ticked off that one expects a tote board to appear, so we can keep score.
Combine that with juvenile humor — Moses wants to "get on TV," so he tries to climb on top of a bank of monitors at Best Buy — and unbelievable characterizations, and Migration could inspire dreams of relocation all by itself.