Jack and Jeff at the Diner
A couple of guys sit around and shoot the shit. Sometimes it's over alcohol, coffee or food; sometimes it's in a dark room. Existential questions arise. A cloud of mystery looms heavy over the minimalist narrative. This is the theme of a lot of well-known scripts (The Seafarer, My Dinner with Andre and "The Dumb Waiter" come to mind). Another well-received guys-at-a-table piece is Derek Davidson's "Jack of Dover."
Davidson wrote the play back in the mid ’90s when he was a master’s student at Miami University of Ohio. At the time, an undergrad named Mike Ostroski saw it and was deeply moved. Later, both men ended up in New Mexico. Davidson had his play adapted for the screen and immortalized in the film Joe Gould's Secret.
The playwright left Albuquerque after five years, but he's returning to see a production of "Jack of Dover." It’s being put on for the first time here and directed by his college pal—Mike Ostroski.
The one-act pits Jack, a fortysomething poet, and his nephew, Jeff, a more straitlaced editor at a publishing company, in a Jersey City diner. The meeting is a regular occurrence. The two chat about life, drink coffee and laugh, and Jeff gives Jack a check so he can continue his hermitic poet's lifestyle. As Ostroski tells the Alibi, "Jack has taken the last seven years to experience a harder life so he can write an epic poem about the American working man. ... He wants to be the next Walt Whitman."
Jeff, meanwhile, hasn't seen a good piece of writing in years, and he's desperate to get ahold of the large notebook his uncle is carrying around. "You believe that this guy knows what he's talking about," Ostroski says of Jack. "He's passionate about it, irreverent, and he's having some ennui because he believes everyone is leading a life of blind desperation, so he's trying to wake everybody up, including himself."
That's really all you should know. The payoff is just too massive, and I'm not one to play spoiler. As Ostroski says, “If done well, it's incredible how much meaning can be generated by a little."
The play opens Wednesday, Jan. 18, as part of Mother Road Theatre Company's Empty Space Series. Davidson will be on hand Friday and Saturday, Jan. 27 and 28, for talk-backs with the audience.