Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: Keeping Up With the Gay Astronauts

Everyone dreams of being an astronaut as a kid. The images we've placed on astronauts are based on their feats of heroism. There's a celebrity attached to them. In Endless Air, Endless Water, playwright Robert Shaffron has placed two astronauts in the public spotlight by live broadcasting their adventure to the moon. Similar to the live feeds on the reality show "Big Brother", viewers can watch as Fred and Ditch engage in their daily activities. But when the duo is caught off guard and cause the kiss from space seen 'round the world, the media frenzy causes them to reevaluate their companionship and themselves. They must decide to stay the course or change history. Building in gay themes and how society views them is at the center of this space dramedy. Shockingly, Endless Air, Endless Water couldn't come at a better time but Shaffron's script comes across as severely dated. Many of the struggles that Shaffron presents are still true but do not carry as much weight. The idea of a "gay celebrity" is almost old hat. The reality of the play also seems to have little barring. In the ninety-minute play, we see a very truncated relationship form but the timeline reality of going to the moon did not match the dialogue. It just didn't feel natural.
What sets Endless Air, Endless Water apart from other Fringe shows is the artistic vision. Director Michael Damico and his creative team introduced high tech elements into the production. It was very welcome in the scope of the festival. But at the same time, much of the design was severely dated. It looked and sounded like it came straight out of the 80s. With changing times and iconography, graphics and fonts have greatly evolved. The logos created for the mission looked like sad clip art from middle school. A big budget NASA mission would look vastly different. While this element was very small in comparison to the rest of the show, it did have a great effect. Additionally, the underscoring and transition music by Will Shishmanian was a midi nightmare. For a modern play, a children's afternoon special sounding score truly hurt the vibe. Additionally, the transition music was forced to play through even if the actors were ready for the scene to start. The longer you listened to the computer generated sound, the less interested you became.
With two live actors and two actors projected via video, timing was key. And as a unit, the quartet did a phenomenal job. Dare I say, magical? The strongest actor by a landslide was Patrick Judd as Ditch. As the fame-hungry astronaut, Judd lead the mission and the show. He gave the character instant likability with his goofy persona and big smile. Judd was quick on his feet and brought variance into his performance. Opposite him, James David Adelman played a very reserved and internal Fred. It was almost emotionless and safe. With such a big personality next to him, Adelman looked lost in space, holding the play back. At mission control, Deon Frank as Les was stern yet lively. He worked the video to his advantage.
Endless Air, Endless Water could be s very strong and exciting piece. But there are some parts that must be left in space, updated, and changed in order to complete its mission.