Kathryn Elisabeth Lawson and Michael Bertolini in a scene from Liner Notes
Description: With the aid of the guitarist for her Dad’s long defunct band, a young woman learns that the past is only as amazing as the one who chooses to write it down.
First Produced: 2010
Date Added: 1/2/2012
Content Advisory: This play contains adult themes and profanity
Small Cast Size
1 Act, 85 Minutes
1 Female, 1 Male
The English language stock and amateur stage performance rights in this Play are controlled exclusively by Next Stage Press (email@example.com). No professional or nonprofessional performance of the Play may be given without obtaining, in advance, the written permission of Next Stage Press and paying the requisite fee. Inquiries concerning all other rights should be addressed to the author at: JohnPatrickBray@yahoo.com.
From the Author:
What does it mean to be a rock star?
It is becoming more and more my conviction that every stage should be populated with musical instruments. Folks should be able to pick them up, and just start playing whenever the mood takes them. It would be amazing if life worked that way…
Liner Notes was developed with The Actors Studio’s Playwrights/Directors Workshop, The Last Frontier Theatre Conference, the Axial Theatre, 3STC, and Epic Rep. Theatre at The Players’ Club. It’s had a bunch of readings (I am indebted to Jerry Zellers, who played George in a few of those readings), and was picked up for a production by the good folks at (re:)Directions Theatre Company. As the play developed over the past eleven years (and as I aged, formed a couple of bands, and lost them), I learned a lot about George and Alice. At first, they were surrounded by band members, the ghost of Alice’s dad, and constant phone calls from Alice’s worried mother, but all of that seemed to get in the way of what turned out to be a cross-generational character study (…that whole “aging” thing…). Like George and Alice, I started off with guns a-blazing, but with time, learned that there is beauty in subtlety.
The actor playing George should be able to play guitar, and arrange the song(s). I did not write music for the song as it appears in the play, and it is up to the actor (and director) to figure out the best way to approach it. This has been very effective. I have seen this play presented a handful of times, and the song is always a surprise.
More Plays by John Patrick Bray:
People who bought Liner Notes also bought:
Original Production Information
Liner Notes was originally produced by the (re:)Directions Theatre Company as part of the 2010 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity at The Robert Moss Theatre at 440 Studios, with the following cast and crew:
Alice: Kathryn Elisabeth Lawson
George: Michael Bertolini
Director: Erin Smiley
Lighting: Tim Kaufman
Sound: Martha Goode
Stage Manager: Courtney Ferrell
Producer: (re:)Directions Theatre Company
The conflict between youth and middle-age is at the heart of Liner Notes, an affecting new drama by John Patrick Bray. Set at the turn of the millennium, the play examines the often strained relationship between Baby Boomers and their children. In particular, Bray explores the ever-changing boundaries between young and old in a society where the generation gap is getting increasingly narrower.
The play follows Alice, a young woman coping with the recent suicide of her rock musician father. On a whim, she travels hundreds of miles to visit her dad's former guitarist, George. Now a divorced academic, George is still bitter about his falling out with his ex-bandmate. Reluctantly, he agrees to take a road trip with Alice to her father's grave in Montreal.
As they make their trek north, the protagonists become increasingly confused about how to relate to each other. Should they treat one another as peers? As a parent and child? As potential lovers? This tension comes to a head in a pivotal scene in an Upstate New York bar, as George opens up about his relationship to Alice's parents. The banter of the two characters is alternately gentle, scolding, flirtatious, and awkward. There is a growing emotional bond between them, and neither of them quite knows where it's going.
Their age difference soon becomes all too apparent. After Alice spends a night partying, George chides her for being promiscuous. He is clearly conflicted about where his resentment is coming from. Is he acting as a concerned parent, or is he simply jealous? Are the two feelings separable? It is a credit to the playwright that we never quite learn the answer.
Bray has a gift for creating vivid, richly detailed characters. In particular, he endows George with such a meticulously crafted back story that it's hard to believe the character isn't a real person. George's monologues about his brief life in the spotlight are long but never dull, expository yet fully authentic.
What's less convincing, however, are the circumstances bringing the two characters together. It is unclear as to why Alice wants to reconnect with George, and even less clear as to why he agrees to take a trip with her. The characters' fundamental lack of motivation makes some of the more dramatic moments seem forced and arbitrary. This is particularly true of the play's confrontational finale. The stakes aren't high enough to justify the emotional fireworks.
As George, Michael Bertolini gives a pitch-perfect, understated performance. He portrays the character's weariness, closet intellectualism, and moral confusion so well that we never question the truth of his story. Equally excellent is Kathryn Elisabeth Lawson as Alice, wonderfully capturing the growth period between teenage petulance and emotional maturity. Director Erin Smiley clearly has a grasp on these characters and their lives, although a number of important moments seem rushed, particularly at the end. At 75 minutes, the show could actually use a bit of air.
Bray has fashioned an incisive, touching study about love and generational conflict in the 21st century. The play could definitely benefit from a stronger main storyline; the past events are so interesting that the onstage drama suffers by comparison. Nevertheless, Liner Notes is a finely drawn portrait of current American life, and definitely a trip worth taking.
reviewed at the 2010 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity
Review by Karen Tortora-Lee in The Happiest Medium (2010)
For you youngsters who get all your music electronically: a liner note is as foreign to you as a 45 rpm adapter so let me break it down for you – liner notes were like mini blog entries that came with an album and often were the first thing some people went for when they got their hands on a record.
Read the review.
Yeah, I’m not sure I can do this.
Thanks to Johnny Walker, all nerves disappear within minutes. It’s a nerve-be-gone. In mere seconds, we’ll be hell-cats of the New York stage!
Up-State New York.
(She begins to gulp her drink).
You’re not gulping your drink. You okay?
It’s Johnny Walker and Coke. You mixed scotch, good scotch...well, decent scotch...with coke.
(He looks at his drink).
Stomach’s in a knot anyway.
You all right? You look like you’re gonna hurl.
It’s part of the fun, right. (Beat). Jake always said he’d get one of those electric cattle prods to help coax me along. I get like this in front of a new class, too.
(GEORGE sits down and dragging his hands through his hair).
Jesus. The great George Kellington gets stage fright. What do we do?
God. Lie back and think of England!
Come on, you’re a grown up. Aren’t you supposed to be, I don’t know, more relaxed, mature? I don’t know, talented?
I’m like a fine wine: I get more overrated with age. I’m just not sure the song is -
No. It’s close, but not perfect.
Does everything have to be perfect?
(He gives her a look).
Jesus. You’re gonna give me performance anxiety, too.