Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: About That Ending

1969.  It was a vivacious year. It was the end of an era and the start of a new decade. A time where women stood strong and a man walked on the moon. It is also sets the scene for Max Baker’s wildly captivating drama Live From the Surface of the Moon. Presented by Stable Cable Lab Co., a group of friends celebrate a series of personal and historical moments while old and new relationships are tested.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong was set to be the first man to walk on the moon, broadcasted live on national television. It was also the night that Don and Carol were to be parents. To celebrate the momentous occasions, Don and Carol celebrate with their swinging couple Wendell and June, Carol’s decrepit dad and her gal pal Holly. As Carol goes into labor, Wendell and Holly are left alone with Don in the corner, as they engage in a game of domination. What ensues months later on New Years’ Eve is the aftermath of a optimistic night for some and a night of terror for others. Max Baker's living room drama begins slowly but picks up steam. When the dramatic damage is done and intermission begins, you can’t help but wonder what happens next. How will this chance encounter alter their lives? Will a confrontation occur? Rather than handling the catalyst of excitement, Baker lightly touches on it and instead explores different themes and character arcs. As Baker does this, you can’t help but long for that big explosive moment between Wendell and Holly where Holly reveals all as the calendar switches to a new year. But just when all is to be revealed, Baker blindsides you with something unsatisfactory. You can’t help but mutter to yourself as you sit in the dark. Regardless of the ending, Baker’s script is filled with some dramaturgical questions that could use some addressing including the nature of Wendell and Carol’s relationship, Joe’s presence in the play and an overall character history of Wendell.
photo courtesy of Sara Watson
Live From the Surface of the Moon was filled with some well-rounded performances. Leading off with great strength was Brian Edleman as Wendell. Edleman had a grand task of finding redeeming qualities in the antagonist. Edelman expertly finds an attractiveness in Wendell that by the time he turns, you may have already fallen for him. As meek Holly, Lisa Anderson goes full force. Anderson easily finds the highest highs and lowest lows of Holly. The dynamic between Edleman and Anderson is vibrant. Their haunting scene to close act one was the strongest in the entire play. Ian Patrick Poake and Breanna Foister as Don and June respectively captured the essence of the time expertly.
Playwright Max Baker took on the role of director as well. While it didn’t serve the script best in aiding in the issues, Baker’s direction of the actors and the production was quite strong. Baker brought the highs and lows of the story and balanced them to give a complete theatrical arc. With a strong ensemble behind him, there was no doubt that his work would shine. From a production standpoint, Live From the Surface of the Moon was a knockout. The attention to detail in all aspects made the piece shine. The set by Doss Freel and costumes by Natalie Loveland brought the late 60s to life. Their specificity and appearance evoked the times and looked mighty fine doing it. Freel’s set was mostly practical for Baker’s staging. The only issue was the table for the board game as much of the scene forced backs to the audience. Even the prop’s by Zachary Sitrin were skillfully selected. The costumes by Loveland fit each characters’ personality well without feeling forced. The lighting by Sara Watson allowed for some stunning stage pictures, especially in the finale scene of Act I.
Live From the Surface of the Moon is one of those special pieces that, despite its flaws, is dynamic, chaotic, and invigorating. With some tweaking, this play could find a very long future.