Houston playwrights Doug Williams and Donna McKenzie have collaborated on their newest creation, “The Boundary,” a story about love, lust, marriage, evil and even politics. Not necessarily in that order!
Samantha is a successful romance novelist (beautifully portrayed by Mykle McCoslin) who happens to be at the top of her game – or so we think. The problem is her marriage to an insanely obsessive man, Frank (Howard Block embodying an almost Vulcan emotive intensity). Frank prefers a world with a rigid schedule to his life including his meals – “and since it’s Tuesday that means it’s a chicken and broccoli night.” Samantha yearns for something, anything different. We all should be careful for what we wish for, lest it comes to fruition.
Samantha’s ex-lover, Christian (a brilliantly cast Travis Ammons) enters the picture and all hell breaks loose. Now he is a dangerous fugitive wanted by the FBI for crimes against corporate America, and he needs her help for what may be his boldest, most desperate – and likely final – act. Christian being back in Samantha’s life forces her to face all of her choices and to examine the shifting lines between love and marriage, trust and betrayal, life and death.
As an undercurrent, Frank works for Max (a humorous performance by Jim Salners), who happens to run the insurance company that Christian holds accountable for his mother’s death. This stands as the juxtaposition point of the story between the triangulation of the primary characters — Samantha, Frank, and Christian.
Throughout the work, we are introduced to a multitude of secondary characters that exist for one reason or another, yet we are left to ponder the individualistic purposes of each. From the dream sequence, the book signing, through the unapologetic and non-politically correct feds that show up, there are a number of moments that will leave you scratching your head and tumbling down the rabbit hole should you think about them too hard.
As a critic, it has always been my stance to never condemn a work merely for being too lengthy. At just shy of three hours, “The Boundary” tested me at times. With some questionable characters, a superfluous amount of Samantha reading her latest novel to us, as well as some clearly miscast characters, I would generally have a field day tearing the project apart. However, after viewing “The Boundary” on opening night, I decided to sleep on the experience. A few nights later, what I have discovered is that through it all, “The Boundary” stuck with me. Congratulations, Boundary folks, for softening this hardened critic!
My response to the play is much like Frank’s response to Samantha’s question, “what would you do if I died?” Frank replies with austere, almost Vulcan emotion saying, “it’d kill me Sam! It would fucking kill me…but I’d manage.” Therein lies the issue with “The Boundary.” We would all manage if we didn’t see it, but things just seem so much better once you do.
Ultimately what Williams and McKenzie have given us is a work that demands we look into the themes of marriage, commitment, trust, what it means to be merely comfortable with life, but also the dangers that lurk around the corner for all of us if we give in to living a comfortable yet unfulfilling life. “The Boundary” is entertaining, thought provoking and is an excellent way to enjoy an evening. Dirt Dogs Theatre and director Malinda L. Beckham are to be commended for taking a risk on “The Boundary” and letting all of us come along for the ride.
The Boundary runs Thursday March 31 through April 2 at The MATCH. For ticket availability, please visit matchhouston.org.