Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review: The Walkie Talkie Show

With a zombie apocalypse on their hands, a married couple battles the elements and each other. Written by Dave Lankford, Night of the Living is a psychological thriller of marital proportions. Told through a nonlinear lens jumping from past and present, Night of the Living uses a zombie takeover to cover the holes of the relationship. Mia and Marshall are a couple squabbling due to fear and the unknown. A fighting couple isn't a new story. It's the zombie part that sets it apart. So how strong is the story sans buzzword? Not very. The zombie aspect is the crutch Night of the Living stands on. But I suppose even in a zombie apocalypse couples will still have the same woes.
photo by Michael Bernstein
With an interesting concept, Night of the Living also incorporated something quite unique. Live conversations via walkie talkie. In the present, we see that Mia and Marshal are celebrating their anniversary from separate buildings. To communicate they use walkie talkies. To make it real, director Jenny Beth Snyder keeps Mia on stage and Marshall in the hallway. It was a very bold move. Real time aside, it was quite difficult watching an action packed story with a lag in communication. There are moments where Belle Caplis's Mia was supposed to wait and ask the same question again. But there were many a time when it wasn't natural and more of an actual lag, taking Caplis out of the moment. Caplis gave an extremely calculated performance. You can see her build her words as she speaks. And it looked like she was simply stumbling for the right lines and not reacting out of emotion. Despite her struggles with the elements and things that were not present on stage with her, Caplis and Eric Kuehnermann had little connection when they physically shared the stage. Many times Caplis was talking at Kuehnermann and not to him. Her reactions occasionally were not warranted based on what Kuehnermann gave her. Caplis has a rich Louisiana grit in her voice. It gives her an edge, but she was just a lost soul. Relegated to a voice most of the time, Kuehnermann did a fine job through variance in emotions.
Defining the rules of space is essential in storytelling. Director Jenny Beth Snyder utilized the cutout walls by Mary Hamrick’s scenic design to create a room. But to exit the room and subsequently the building, Snyder had Marshall walk up and behind the downstage wall which based on the rules on space is in the sky. While the restrains of Fringe are very likely to blame, there is nothing that takes you out of the moment like flimsy structures that flop when a body walks by. And we won't even discuss the makeshift bed.
Night of the Living is an emotional roller coaster. Thrillers like this hit home when there is honesty. Perhaps it was just this performance but the honesty was severely lacking.