By Lynn Venhaus


That one little word changes everything in how we perceive “Don’t Wait for the Marlboro Man,” a cryptic collision of lifestyles and values that is interestingly framed in a small space teeming with tension.

The acting trio’s performances are strong, and the production values are too as this enigmatic story unfolds. Director Philip Boehm translated a play written by Olivier Garofalo about two distinctive personalities who meet in a hospital waiting area, from German to English, for its U.S. premiere by Upstream Theater.

An air of mystery pervades because the narrator Eric J. Conners, matter of fact and authoritative, seems to indicate a larger force at work, possibly spiritual and other-worldly in nature.

It is a view askew. But we can only surmise what is real and what is imagined. The two acting partners don’t ever give us a hint, just indicate it may not be so clear-cut by their halting speech patterns and unnatural stylized movements.

Pro Photo STL

That may be because Boehm said the original script did not punctuate any dialogue, leaving it up to the actors to determine what to do, along with the director, in a collaborative spirit.

Superb Caitlin Mickey plays the driven, controlling Sarah, who has rushed to the hospital from her office after receiving the news of her fiancé’s motorcycle accident. With her cell phone in hand, she is working while waiting for news.

In struts a peculiar fellow, Pedro, and whipsmart Isaiah Di Lorenzo excels at playing oddballs. He is her boyfriend’s motorcycle buddy that she knows nothing about, which immediately puts her on edge. Who is this shaggy dude who brought a grocery sack of snacks and shares information about her, but she’s never heard of him?

She appears to wonder what else doesn’t she know, and what more does he know, but isn’t saying? This establishes an off-kilter sense of action – and reaction.

The pair circle each other warily. Can they trust each other, or will they keep pretending to do this unsettling dance as minutes tick by? They take turns being anxious and apprehensive.


He has a fondness for ants. She recalls happier times with her partner. His eccentricities agitate her, and her chilly demeanor annoys him. DiLorenzo is always at his best being physical, and Mickey’s skillset is a good foil. The unconventional nature of this play adds to their wordy swordplay.

The sound design by Michael Musgrave-Perkins and Boehm is particularly effective, lending a real but frenetic quality to the proceedings. A vending machine’s noises are contrasted with the medical machine beeps that monitor vital signs, and it’s lulling as we acclimate to the waiting area’s purpose: passing time. But also, eerie.

As the two chat, they touch on personal freedom, social responsibility and risks. The characters are complex, and as the play progresses, their behaviors raise more questions than answers.

Sarah hates motorcycles and disapproved of her beau’s hobby. They don’t seem compatible. But maybe they were attracted by ideology and not by inclination.

Pedro appears to be open-minded but may not like her at all and she acts close-minded but maybe she isn’t so rigid.

Doubtful, but these two are thrown together by happenstance. (Or are they?) And should it matter?

The pieces of the puzzle don’t seem to fit – or maybe they do. It’s up to you, and how you suppose what happened before, during and after figure into this tale.


The story gives one plenty to ponder once you leave the well-appointed space. Described as a “cold hallway in a hospital with fluorescent lighting,” Mike Loui’s set design is well-suited for the characters’ movements. Steve Carmichael’s lighting design and the intriguing sound design add to the details.

Michele Friedman Siler’s costumes astutely outfit the characters’ personalities – Mickey in a blazer and DiLorenzo in leather jacket, jeans, and bandana, with nifty safety goggles.

“Don’t Wait for the Marlboro Man” is a rumination on life and death that’s well-acted and executed. The characters are drawn together by a man in critical condition. One could overthink it but shouldn’t. Our mortality has an endgame that we all must face, and this taps into that finality.

Upstream Theater presents “Don’t Wait for the Marlboro Man” April 12-14, 18-21, and 25-28 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand. All show are at 8 p.m., except Sundays (April 14 at 7 p.m., April 21 at 2 p.m. and April 28 at 2 p.m.). For more information, visit

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