Published: 12:00 AM, Thu January, 31 2019
By Eric McCrea
The RustBelt Theater Company is known for doing outside-the-box, locally written works featuring Youngstown, and its new episodic experiment, “Stuck,” checks all the boxes.
Set up like a sitcom, you might have already caught episodes 1 and 2, which premiered late last year. Episode 3 premiered last weekend, performed in order with the first two.
In the pilot, Ronnie, played by Celena Coven, is forced to take some time off work because of a back injury. Fortunately, Ronnie’s grown-up daughter Claire (Katharine Skaggs) is helping take care of her mom’s business, until some fun with her friends distracts her. Ronnie loses her job but things get better before the 30-minute mark.
After a word from the advertisers, we find Claire and Ronnie rethinking their living situation. Lack of communication leads to a “come and knock on our door” styled misunderstanding. To make things worse, Claire isn’t getting along with her friends, and Ronnie is struggling to deal with her ex.
In the newest episode, Ronnie’s neighbors Roose and Sal (Jack Rusk and Kage Coven respectively) set aside their differences from previous episodes to track down Claire before her mother finds out she’s missing.
The Rust Belt had a lot of fun exploring the sitcom format. Original theme music with opening credits and commercials featuring local businesses made it feel like the real thing. The three-episode binge allowed for a cute “skip intro” gag and showcased the character development.
Celena Coven was very relatable as the pivotal Ronnie. She carried the first two episodes, but was not featured much in the third. This proves that the show has a lot going on, even without the central character.
Skaggs was a delight showing off her leading-role potential. Her interactions with BFFs Kelsey (Rachel Clifford) and Gina (Abigail Kremm) were hilarious and each of them showed distinctive personas.
Kage Coven’s Sal was pure Youngstonian with a flair for paranoia and polyamory. His character wasn’t exactly someone you’d like, but definitely someone you’d like to see more of.
Rusk’s Roose was a reliable counterpoint to Sal, but there’s room to grow. He had some great lines, but Rusk’s approach was reserved.
Overall, the cast had great chemistry together, and the familiarity grew as the show progressed. The characters were great, and the storyline has a chance to take off.
The cast had some pacing issues during the reruns of the first two episodes, but they were fresh and solid in the latest. Adding a few more TV elements, such as inter-scene music or an occasional laugh track, might help keep the dialogue on pace and give the show more structure.
This unique ongoing project has three more episodes planned this season. Check the RustBelt Theater Company’s Facebook page for upcoming events.