No one says growing up is easy. Things change during that period between adolescence and adulthood. The time when you leave home for college and when you return home from college. In Freaks: a legend about growing up, we see just exactly how that in between period shapes the lives of three hometown friends just before they’re about to take the next step in life’s journey.
In Sam French’s poetically courageous new play Freaks: a legend about growing up, a late night Floridian reunion brings together old pals Carl, Danny, and Jenny on the beach as Jenny, who’s brought along new friend Flower as reinforcement, is about to reveal the next step in her life. As we learn the history of the trio, their past relationships, pain, and memories are brought out through a secret language French has expertly scribed. Freaks is a beautiful example of what happens when people change over time. Sure, good friends are able to pick back up again but growing up means knowing when it’s time to leave. The overall stakes French has set up are seemingly low, especially after we learn how minimal Jenny’s next life step is in the grand scheme of things. Instead, we observe the stunning power of friendship and how the past is never fully forgotten. The individual relationships, primarily between Carl and Danny and Danny and Jenny are incredibly intriguing. The addition of Flower into the mix muddies up the concept of the secret language. While off stage Jenny could have briefed Flower on the trio’s language but having Flower exist and speak in the same world as the others felt contrived. As did the instant love connection between Flower and Carl.
The quartet did a spectacular job bringing an immense amount of chemistry to the stage. The individual performances were stunning and real. Colleen Pulawski as Jenny filled the stage with fear and longing. Her mannerisms were beautiful to watch as she struggled to come clean. As Danny, Carl Lundstedt played the boy next door turned man with ease. Lundstedt’s journey as Danny was the clearest, sincere and optimistic, yet excited to relive the good ol’ days. Sawyer Pierce as Carl brought exuberant energy and anguish to the guy who never left home. Cara Ronzetti as the eccentric Flower seemed to fit her part well as the hopeful outsider, though at times she bordered on the side of caricature compared to the others.
Director Kyle Wilson did a sublime guiding the ensemble, finding a clear way to share the story. His approach to the world allowed the ensemble to make great choices throughout the dramedy. The lighting design by Jackson Gallagher was colorful evoking the looming storm, though the exact time of the night was at times lost.
French’s play is intricate and thought out. For those in this transition period, it hits home. For those out of it, it’s a piece of nostalgia. Where Freaks: a legend about growing up can grow is expanding the past in a more accessible language. There is room to grow. And add.