Stage Buddy


July 17, 2014

Derek Ahonen’s The Qualification of Douglas Evans is a modern take on the morality play that feels like 8 ½ by way of Days of Wine and Roses. As in Blake Edwards’ 1962 film (based on a teleplay by JP Miller), Ahonen presents us with characters full of potential whose lives are destroyed by alcoholism. The life of protagonist Douglas Evans (played by Ahonen) is neatly divided into chapters marked by the women he was involved with and by the level of his drunkenness during these relationships. We first meet him as an acting student being seduced by Jessica (Kelley Swindall) an older classmate with whom he’s doing repetition exercises. “The only no that means no is no” she explains when he timidly wonders if he should stop licking her when she giggles. As played by the perceptive Ahonen, we realize that Douglas is archiving specific gestures, moments and lines that will help determine the rest of his life, his eyes seem to light up whenever Douglas earns another piece of wisdom he will use at his convenience. When he learns that his best friend’s girlfriend Kimmy (Mandy Nicole Moore) is having bedroom problems – “he fucks me as if he’s trying to prove he’s not gay” she explains – Douglas doesn’t hesitate to steal her from him, in spite of the alcoholism she confuses with playfulness.


July 14, 2014

It might sound like an orgy of onanistic ego, but Ahonen’s latest—in which he portrays a playwright of autobiographical dramas—is oddly winning, much like his schlumpy, schlemiel-cute protagonist. Amid David Harwell’s stark loggia of a set, centered on a revolving bed, Doug suffers flashbacks of familial strife as he embarks on his sentimental education. In true Amoralist fashion, the play gets right down to business with a graphic depiction of 18-year-old Doug’s defloration at the hands of an “older woman” of 24 (Kelley Swindall). After a demoralizing dalliance with an heiress and dilettante (Samantha Strelitz), he tries to devote himself to a die-hard optimist, played like a human pogo stick (every other bounce brings a “Yay!”) by Agatha Nowicki. Barbara Weetman glows in a panoply of roles, ranging from Doug’s martyr of a mom to a middle-aged agent whom he tries unsuccessfully to bed. His most faithful lover, though, lives in a bottle, and Ahonen—writer and performer—deftly handles a gradual U-ey from comic to tragic.

Village Voice


July 16, 2014

The Qualification of Douglas Evans, a deeply compelling new play for the Amoralists by Derek Ahonen, looks at addiction without embellishment. It skips the pathos we’re used to seeing in drinking stories and instead takes a steady march through a life leaning more and more on the bottle. Ahonen’s tightly knit, episodic drama treats alcoholism as the complicated affliction it is. Family history haunts Douglas (played by Ahonen), a struggling young actor-playwright, but so do emotional misfortunes, physical depravity, and moral crises. His severe father (Penny Bittone) climbs on and off the wagon throughout his childhood; his mother (Barbara Weetman) is terrified but tenacious. When he moves to New York to pursue a life in the theater, the fear and self-doubt Douglas learned at home plays out in unstable, codependent relationships with women; understanding others comes slowly and painfully to him. At first he just needs to down a couple of cocktails to steel his nerves for a seduction. Then playwriting failures and successes provide more highs and lows for him to lubricate with liquor. He tends bar as a day job: “I drink all day on one side of the bar and drink all night on the other,” he tells a date. Eventually bottles attach to his hand, until he inevitably hits bottom and the pain of withdrawal makes it almost unimaginable for him to stop.


July 15, 2014

“You wrote a masturbatory play about your stupid relationship with some stupid girl and then you stupidly starred in it and were equally as bad at playing yourself as you were at writing about yourself,” actress Cara says to playwright/actor Douglas Evans in an uncomfortable moment in The Qualification of Douglas Evans. This beguiling play is now receiving its world premiere as part of The Gyre, the Amoralists’ summer repertory at Walkerspace. The above passage is particularly awkward because the actor playing Douglas Evans is none other than the play’s actual author, Derek Ahonen, a founding member and resident bard of The Amoralists. Ahonen penned last summer’s delightfully perverse The Cheaters Club as well as the company’s most popular piece, The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side. By casting the playwright in the central role of The Qualification of Douglas Evans, The Amoralists almost tauntingly invite autobiographical speculation (much as they do in the Gyre’s other play, Enter at Forest Lawn, which is also about a troubled writer). I won’t go there, but I will say that I usually find any theater about playwrights or actors and their “problems” extremely tiresome. However, I couldn’t look away from Douglas Evans. The Amoralists’ unique mix of sharp perspective and rigorous theatricality make this piece extremely rewarding, shedding new light on well-trod territory.


July 18, 2014

Good luck trying to criticize Derek Ahonen’s The Qualification of Douglas Evans, produced by the Amoralists. Mr. Ahonen, who stars as the titular Douglas, has already beaten you to the punch, and it’s a killer combination. Here’s a character reviewing Douglas’s first play: “You wrote a masturbatory play about your stupid relationship with some stupid girl and then you stupidly starred in it and were equally as bad at playing yourself as you were at writing about yourself.” Let’s give Mr. Ahonen some credit. His play concerns several stupid relationships with several young women, and while it’s certainly indulgent — histrionic, arrogant, overlong — it’s really not as bad as all that. Sometimes it’s even pretty funny.  A mildly pervy and awfully self-pitying bildungsroman, Qualification follows Douglas from a fraught childhood with an alcoholic father and put-upon mother to his student days in New York to his writerly success and alcoholic collapse. Running in repertory with Mark Roberts’s Enter at Forest Lawn, Qualification is part of The Gyre, an Amoralists’ mini-festival devoted to “man’s vicious cycles.” Here it’s more like man’s vicious hangover.