Jono Mitchell | Making a Scene
accessing the vibe
by Douglas Messerli
Madison Hatfield and Jono Mitchell (screenplay), Jono Mitchell (director) Making a Scene / 2023
Sammy (Mack Bayda) is what you might describe as “all in a sweat.” The cutest junior in his school, Ryan Riddle (Johnathon Grogan), who has signed up for the drama class only because the weight lifting class was full, is just about to arrive in his Cadillac to read The Tempestwith Sammy in preparation for the drama class performance. Sammy is gay, and his mother Carol (Vanessa Aranegui), an over-enthusiastic supporter of her son’s sexuality, is delighted that he may have found another gay boy in his school.
But Sammy argues that, in fact, it still a “riddle” about Ryan’s sexuality. With others he seems totally straight, but alone…. His mother immediately wants to put him to a test, but Sammy is determined just to “access the vibes.”
We can only wish him good luck, as Ryan pulls up in the driveway, the two of them starring out of the widow at him. Getting up to open the door, Sammy tells his mother act normal, as the camera pans to show her with straws in her nose. She is not a subtle woman.
Thunder can be heard, which Sammy comments is highly appropriate given they about read from The Tempest. Before the poor boy even gets into the house, she has insisted he call her Carol and has wound her arm around his shoulder. “You’re welcome here. This is an open and safe house where you can be completely yourself.” In her first test, she accidently tosses out a wrapped condom, claiming when Ryan picks it up, that it’s hers, she being a middle-aged sexually active divorcee.
Embarrassed, Sammy hurries Ryan to his bedroom and closes the door, suggesting he sit in the chair beside his desk only to discover that his mother has removed all the room’s chairs so that they will be forced to the bed. Nonetheless, they begin to read their lines, Sammy a little self-conscious about being cast as the “fairy”—“A little on the nose, don’t you think?”
What Sammy quickly discovers is that Ryan is very unsure of himself, imagining that everyone in the class is so much more experienced. “I tend to mess up a lot,” he declares, asking for a pencil to make a note about Sammy’s correction of his pronunciation of the world “bade.” They touch fingers for moment as the pencil changes hands, and the music—obviously influenced by Carol’s overwrought behavior, swells to a crescendo. As they begin a conversation about how they feel paired up to read, Carol suddenly enters with a full head of lettuce to wonder if they need snacks, tossing to her son as if were ball to which she might add, “It’s now in your court.”
Her son takes her out of the room, arguing with her in front of the door, in a rather loud voice, that she should go away, as she wonders aloud (quite loudly) “Is he gay?” The conversation, a rather crude one, can be heard by Ryan as he soon reports, opening the door to say, “You’re like…not whispering.”
Understandably, Ryan wants to know what they are trying to do with putting him on the bed, tossing out a condom, etc. Sammy explains, it was all his mother, Ryan attempting to comprehend, “What?” “She was trying to help…” “Help you what…?” “To find out if you were gay.”
Ryan, already on his way, is startled, turning back to ask, “And then have sex with me?”
“Then why do you want to know so bad?” he screams as moves toward front door.
Before he leaves, he turns, complimenting Sammy as being the best actor in class, praising his generosity, his help of others, etc., while admitting that it’s all difficult for him. But he was glad to paired with Sammy, he admits.
To Sammy’s final plea, “Are you gay Ryan,” the boy simply answers, “I don’t know,” as he leaves the house.
The minute he leaves, Sammy proclaims he just wants somebody else…presumably just another gay person to be able to talk to. His mother suggests he tell him that.
He opens the door to find Ryan still there, shoeless, since he has been asked to take off his shoes as he entered the house. Ryan’s response: “You guys just can’t not talk loud.”
But now, quite inexplicably, he speaks of the play itself: “You know what I like about this play. The whole time Prospero seems to have it together. Ya know, he has this whole plan. Then comes the speech:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
“He’s more scared than anyone. He’s more alone than anyone. He spends this whole play exacting his revenge and then…forgives them all. Fuck his anger. Fuck his pride. This is his one chance to not be alone, and he takes it.”
Thunder strikes again, and it begins to rain. Ryan moves toward Sammy for a kiss as the end credits swallow up the screen.
It’s a moving end to a very frustrating and noisy short movie. The problem with Jono Mitchell’s Making a Scene, despite its outrageously funny and silly intrusive female wishing only the best for her son, is that not one of the characters truly seem believable. They all seem to be acting out a script that isn’t that remarkably engaging, and which in the end just presents Sammy and his mother as loud and intrusive human beings who force a young shy actor to speak lines he would never truly utter.
I think that even I, who loves all the drama of human life and the exaggerations that some of my friends make of it, would have fled Sammy and Carol’s house—not even, were a teenager unsure of my sexuality, because of their sexual fixation about my life but because of the theatrical aggression with which they pretend to face their own existence. These are not the signs of normal human beings. Surely, I would not stayed around for a final kiss, knowing that the whole town would very soon hear about it and everything else than might transpire.