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.
Douglas’ life is chronicled for a little more than a decade and we see how he never stopped doing the repetition exercises, his life turns into a rinse-and-repeat cycle of heartbreak, disillusion and the ghosts of relationships past who return to haunt him like the women in Fellini’s film. From the snobbish Cara (a delightful Samantha Strelitz) he gets a feeling of never being good enough, from potential agent Holly (Barbara Weetman) he realizes that despite his aging he hasn’t yet become an adult and from the constant apparitions by Jessica and Kimmy he spends his life wondering if he could’ve done something different.
The play’s complexity however doesn’t come from the darkly funny situations encountered by this unlikely lothario, but by how it dissects heartbreak as Ahonen suggests that it takes one rotten apple to bring down the whole tree. When Douglas meets the optimistic Robin (a vibrant Agatha Nowicki) she invited him to “embrace the crazy with childlike wonder”, little does she know that his demons will end up overpowering her. And yet The Qualification of Douglas Evans leaves us on a hopeful note, like the best works in its genre, it rubs the horrors in our face, only to give us a chance at absolution.
The Qualification of Douglas Evans is part of The Gyre, a two play repertory exploring man’s vicious cycles. Performances take place from June 26 – August 9 at Walkerspace (46 Walker St.) in NYC. For more info you can visit https://www.TheAmoralists.com
Through August 9 at Walkerspace.