‘Smudge’ at Pinky Swear Productions by Flora Scott

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There are shows that are good and there are shows that are bad. There are countless shows that land somewhere in the middle. We all have various reasons we attend the plays we do: invitations, free tickets, in-support-of, networking, friends performing, curiosity…but, in the back of our minds, it’s always the last good play we saw that propels us through all the mediocre productions until we find the one that scratches our itch.The best finds are the ones that surprise us. That’s what keeps me hooked. And there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a show that has nothing to lean on but talent.

(l-r) Melissa Hmelnicky and  Brandon Cater. Photo by  Lucas Zuniga.
(l-r) Melissa Hmelnicky and Brandon Cater. Photo by Lucas Zuniga.

Rachel Axler has spun a complex tale into gold while smearing the lines between realism and delusion when a newly wed couple give birth to a deformed child in  Smudge. With a script as thought-provoking, complex, compelling and tight as hers, it’d be hard to mess things up, but just easy to ride on the strength of the script. But not this crew. The production they put together at The Writers Center in Bethesda was able to bring this provocative fable to life.

Without giving away any secrets, for the next two hours we are taken through the breakdown  of their relationship, and challenges to their personal integrity. Colby (Melissa Hmelnicky) and Nicholas (Brandon Cater) fluently take us from the highest of highs down to the dark, dank back alley where their characters shatter under the weight of their little bundle of joy mutating into their worst nightmare.The wonderful surprise in these two was how subtle and trite their performance began and how explosive and innovative it became. Likewise, Pete (Shane Solo), the obnoxious brother grew on me and astounded me with the suave ingenuity of his character – making the show all that more arresting.

Director Ryan Maxwell brought out and highlighted both the actors’ personal strengths as well as their professional talent and succeeded in choreographing Smudge with opulent talent. His own included.

Melissa Hmelnicky. Photo by Lucas Zuniga.
Melissa Hmelnicky. Photo by Lucas Zuniga.

Running Time: Two hours, including a 15-minute intermission.

Smudge is one of three plays presented by Pinky Swear Productions as part of their ‘The Unclear Family: A Repertory: Bench, Bleed, and Smudge.‘ All three plays are being performed through May 19, 2013 at the Writer’s Center – 4508 Walsh Street, in Bethesda, MD.  Purchase your tickets online.