Ted Mattison wears many hats. Mattison the actor is obviously highly skilled. Mattison the husband—if indeed his character Dave is autobiographical—is at least trying to work on his maturity. But Mattison the writer needs a pair of cold eyes and a firm red pen on the script of his one-person show. After 55 minutes with Dave and his episode on a frozen lake in Northern Minnesota, we're marginally convinced he's had an epiphany, but our hearts and minds remain out in the cold.
Dave apparently runs away from life. He dumped his childhood sweetheart, Sarah, the day he left for college. He divorced his first wife. After then marrying Sarah, who tells him she wants children, he cries, "I need space," which he certainly finds on this lake. Squeezing out his last few hours of arrested adolescence, he gulps beer, chews his cigar, and pees in the snow, until the cold causes dementia and he relives his past and imagines his future.
Mattison skillfully creates the manic energy of Dave, the atmosphere of cold, dark isolation, the desperation of a character at a crossroads. His revved-up energy carries the evening, although we worry about his safety after he's taken a half-dozen tumbles onstage and down the stairs around the stage. But those wanderings offstage take our attention from him. It's no longer our imaginations seeing him lost; it's our uncomfortable self-consciousness watching an actor exiting and emerging elsewhere trying to convince us he's lost.
When the play is working well, our imaginations fill in a surprising number of blanks carefully laid by Mattison and director Bill Bumiller. But too many blanks remain unfilled, by either us or Mattison, making us wonder what idea, emotion, event he's trying to communicate. Much of the exposition seems extraneous; we see quite soon that he's anything but father material, that it will take a near-death experience to shake him.
Toward the play's end we realize there are two possibilities for his rescue, and it can happen not too soon. Make us wonder more, make us care more. For now, Mattison needs to doff Dave's ski cap and wear his thinking cap for just a few moments longer.
"Recollect the Snow," presented by and at the Lillian Theatre, 1078 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Oct. 18-Nov. 24. $15. (213) 384-8870.