According to his mother, Mark Smith was “a very nice boy, a very sweet boy. He would help his father take stuff in from the yard.” His music teacher: “Mark was every bit the star, even in high school. He was handsome and he was funny.” His girlfriend: “Mark is just one of the nicest people.” Sure, Mark Smith may have been a major ’80s rock star, who used to sport parti-colored hair and proffer “disgusting” performances, but now he’s merely the source of bland tribute.
Kate E. Ryan’s Mark Smith, the fifth production by playwrights’ collective 13P, goes mildly Behind the Music. In interviews with an unseen documentarian, family, neighbors, and even a fan (a teenager too young to have seen Mark perform) offer unscandalous morsels of biography and regard. His sister Sarah seems to feel some animosity, but the worst she can submit: Mark once dumped a stick of butter—a whole stick!—into the spaghetti sauce she was stirring. Using lingering pauses and portentous music cues, director Ken Rus Schmoll attempts to impart a measure of mystery and threat that aren’t present in Ryan’s sweet, slight script. Ryan’s capable of some stark and handsome phrasing, but her play wants more confidence in its comedy, its peculiarity, and its melancholy—some flavoring more piquant than butter.