Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

Don't Wait for the Marlboro Man
Upstream Theater
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's recent reviews of Dark Matters and The Whale

Caitlin Mickey, Isaiah DiLorenzo, and Eric Conners
Photo by ProPhotoSTL
You probably don't want to know absolutely everything about another person. The sense of obligation, and the gymnastics required to accommodate every little quirk and bit of contrariness in another individual, means we just have to abolish ourselves in the process of total understanding. (I'm told this is also the definition of "parenting.") But the tug-of-war of an adult relationship, over who gets placed like a trophy on who's mantlepiece, and over the stuff you "edit out" of the other person's story, gets a contentious new road-test at the Kranzberg Arts Center's black box theater, as Upstream Theater of St. Louis stages the English language premiere of Don't Wait for the Marlboro Man.

Company founder Philip Boehm has translated from the original German, retaining a tantalizing European flavor in the script by Olivier Garofalo of Luxembourg. His play debuted in October 2019 at Theater der Stadt Aalen (in Baden-Württemberg) in Germany. Mr. Boehm elegantly directs the American debut of this 90-minute show as well.

It's a play about two people in a tense hospital waiting room who've never met till now. But they've known of each other for some time. Sarah (Caitlin Mickey) has been engaged to marry a man who's suddenly the victim of a high-speed motorcycle crash, and Pedro (Isaiah DiLorenzo) is the victim's motorcycling buddy. As that fiancé/biker pal struggles for life, the two characters on stage circle one another over the disputed territory of his soul.

Much of the spiritual dimension comes from a third person, a paradox-minded narrator played by the warm and wise Eric Conners. He adds quizzical stage directions spoken from the sidelines. But his physical presence regularly balances the visual imagery, highlighting Mr. Boehm's poised staging. And best of all, Mr. Conners lends a skewed new insight when words fail the uneasy pair.

The dialog, like a motorbike tour, is full of wide-open straightaways and hairpin turns. In the fast-paced stretches, Don't Wait for the Marlboro Man reads like the conflicted blank verse of a dying man. In its more coiled moments (where Sarah tries to impose order on these child-like men), there's also a sense of whiplash from her suddenly crushed hopes and the blame she puts on Pedro.

Our own hopes for grand conflict are traded for a satisfying cosmic metaphor: Pedro keeps an ant colony at home, which he insists will help Sarah understand her own life better. And a subplot about Sarah's work for (what is apparently) a shadowy arms dealer lends intrigue. But more ingeniously, a heart monitor off-stage rhythmically aligns with a broken-down vending machine in this waiting room, telling us everything we need to know about the struggle of the man in question, through sound effects. Michael Musgrave-Perkins and director Boehm designed that unsettling harmony, with additional musical accents to highlight a weird, pensive mood.

In spite of my own instincts, I must confess that literary conceits (like ant colonies and broken-down vending machines) actually can make good substitutes for stage combat. In this case, they are "war by other means."

Don't Wait for the Marlboro Man, produced by the Upstream Theater company, runs through April 28, 2024, at Kranzberg Arts Center, Black Box Theater, 501 N. Grand Avenue, St. Louis MO. For tickets and information, please visit

Stage Directions: Eric Conners*
Sarah: Caitlin Mickey*
Pedro: Isaiah DiLorenzo

Production Staff:
Director: Philip Boehm**
Production Stage Manager: Monica Dickens*
Assistant Stage Manager: Gus Kickham
Scenic Designer: Mike Loui***
Costume Designer: Michele Friedman Siler
Lighting Designer: Steve Carmichael
Sound Design: Michael Musgrave-Perkins/Philip Boehm
Properties: Cece Entz
Wardrobe Manager: Gus Kickham
Production Manager: Lizi Watt
Assistant Production Manager: Gus Kickham
Technical Directors: Brian Macke, Laura Skroska

Additional Production Staff:
Master Electrician: Tony Anselmo
Scenic Painter: Alexis Pearson
Sound Board Operator: Monica Dickens*
Light Board Operator: Sabria Bender
House Manager: Monica Roscoe
Marketing: Mona Sabau
Graphic Arts/Website: Sleepy Kitty/Paige Brubeck
Tech Crew: Jonathan Abbott, Bryan Ammons, Sam Condren, Emily Fluchel, Zak Metalsky, Patrice Nelms, Jay Oliver, Spencer Roe-Weaver, Austin Van Winkle, Aaron Walker, Oliver Watt Hoven
KAF FAcilities: Andrew Stenger, Mike Bell

* Denotes Member, Actors' Equity Association
** Denotes Associate Member, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society
*** Denotes Member of United Scenic Artists Local 829