By Edith McCauley
Rufus Cadigan’s intensely dramatic play, Might Have Gone Fishing, keeps the audience completely enthralled at Artists’ Ensemble’s production at Rockford College’s Cheek Theatre. A work in progress for nearly 20 years, it has evolved from one act, previously staged at Rockford College in 1993 as Heart Stammer and then seven years later at a playwriting contest in Valdez, Alaska, where Cadigan received the Excellence in Playwriting Award. Later, the role of Karen, Pat’s wife, was added, and Gordon, the minister, became a more significant part.
As we spoke after the show, our conversation focused on Cadigan’s relationship with his characters. It has become a part of his life, and their growth is revealed in the current production. That has become possible as the result of innumerable rewrites. Might Have Gone Fishing is truly a work of love.
Based on family relationships after a traumatic divorce, the story is told from the viewpoint of Kilpatrick “Pat” McTavish and Michael Herold, a father determined to have a normal relationship with his son, Jason, in spite of his addiction to alcohol. Salvador Stoneberg is Jason at age 9, and Daniel Switzer is Jason at 22. Cadigan’s clever use of the dual role, often with both on stage simultaneously, deepens the experiences and memories of the past. Switzer, a Rockford College student, is so emotionally intense, we constantly feel his pain and hope for a positive outcome. It is Stoneberg’s first experience in theater, and as he quietly sits with his legs crossed, echoing the conversation between Switzer and Herold, his stage presence is amazing.
Michael Herold, a founding member of Forward Theater Company of Madison, often dominates the stage. One moment we deeply sympathize with his loss, and then our anger erupts, especially if our own lives have been damaged by the addiction of a loved one. As the controlling Karen, Carolyn Cadigan gives the dramatic role all her energy. As the story progresses, she becomes a better listener, and we find a deeper sympathy for her. David Causey is Gordon, Pat’s friend and later the source of refuge for the adult, Jason. He, too, has a broken marriage, and as Pat and he commiserate, we discover that often there is humor in the most tragic of circumstances.
The entire cast gives Might Have Gone Fishing the excellent interpretation it so deserves. The Cadigans, long-time friends, have devoted their lives to their art and have given us all so much pleasure. For that, we thank them. Richard Raether directs, with an outstanding crew: Jan Bacino, costumes; Steve Burnside, scenic design/technical director; Angelo O’Dierno, lighting design; David Mauer, sound design/audio engineer; Elizabeth Drog, stage manager; Pat Staaf, properties; and Kris Walters, production assistant. Too often, these essential people are overlooked, but their contributions are invaluable.
Running through March 28 at the Cheek Theatre at Rockford College, Might Have Gone Fishing is a good start to your spring arts season. Tickets are available by calling (815) 394-5004 or online at www.artistsensemble.org. The final play of the season, Italian American Reconciliation, opens May 14.
From the March 24-30, 2010 issue