Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: Damaged Hearts in a Damaged World

Within every tragedy there is hope and love. But often they get overshadowed by the big picture. In Ryan Sprague’s Reach, we get to see a glimpse inside the hope and love in the aftermath of an infamous hurricane. Set in New Orleans in 2006, Reach follows exes Jordan and Lindsey as they try to rekindle a spark from the past while dealing with the tragedy of the present.
With Katrina as a backdrop, the real story is about our two exes reaching back for each other after both lose someone. When we learn Lindsay's husband is in a coma, we progressively learn it was a direct result of the hurricane. However without that tidbit, the main plot, lovers rekindling with the obstacle of a spouse in a coma, can easily be transported to any place. I mention this because anytime you use Hurricane Katrina as a focal point, it should be used fully. The dialogue exists without the hurricane. Perhaps having Lindsey live in a more storm stricken location or giving her a different ethnicity, the impact of Katrina would have been stronger and more prominent and not just a selling point. Now it seems as an after thought. With that being said, Sprague crafts some wonderful moments for his characters. Though one of the most questionable moments was the inevitable. When you learn it's a two-handler about former lovers, like any Lifetime movie, they're going to do it. But the true question is why Lindsey, who has been so devoted to her still "alive" husband, would risk everything before revealing the truth to Jordan. She goes though the play lamenting her love yet throws it away when it's her ex who's the real vulnerable one.
Actors Christo Grabowski and Emily Tuckman did a fine job navigating Sprague's world as Jordan and Lindsey respectively. Grabowski played the determined Jordan with heart. Tuckman's Lindsey was whiny throughout but showed her bite when she went toe to toe with Grabowski. It was in those battle scenes when the two displayed their moments of chemistry for the majority of the piece it felt contrived. Director Jennifer Sandella establishes the world of the play nicely in the tricky space. She focuses our attention to the history between Lindsey and Jordan allowing us to feel the tension until all inhibitions are lost. Luckily for the piece, the space they were in translated into an empty loft atmosphere as the acoustics in the theater were quite echoey. Though the set didn't scream New Orleans, the preshow music set the mood.
Reach is not a Katrina play. The true heart of the play comes in exploring loss and grief and finding the person who can help you through it. But when you watch two characters you know are longing for the wrong person, you can’t help but put your palm to your forehead, especially when the big picture behind them is more interesting.