Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: The Crisis of Life and Ikea

A boy is having an existential crisis. A girl is having an IKEA crisis. But who’s there to help? That’s the premise of Help me out here, produced by No Dominion Theatre Co. Written, directed, and performed by Michael Joel and Kaitlin Overton, this two-hander is virtually two elongated monologues that are interspersed by omniscient voice overs that hit the duo hard. Exploring themes of loneliness and happiness, Help me out here is a call for help that we all know too well. As the duo attempt to work through their woes themselves, when they come together, the moral of the story is revealed. It’s an obvious one but that’s life. Friends are there when you need them. It just may take some time to accept the call.
You can tell a lot from a relationship based on how two people build furniture together. In the case of Michael Joel and Kaitlin Overton, their feat is simple as their bond is genuine. Again, while this piece does contain moments of partner interaction, it’s truly an individual effort. In the case of this piece, Kaitlin Overton is the featured artist in the Michael Joel Show. Simply due to content and placement on stage, Joel stands out. And beautifully so. The material Joel showcased was more metaphorically driven, thriving in the accessible poetry of his words. Joel also happens to be a hypnotizing performer. When he speaks, you listen. Even if there’s just a haunting lantern as the sole source of light. Joel is a raconteur. He likely could read the dictionary and sell it. Overton’s crisis was a bit more physical. We all know that assembling even the simplest of Ikea furniture can be a futile effort. By positioning herself on the ground for the majority of the play, she almost melted into the stage. With Joel being the dominating presence simply by levels, it played a huge factor in controlling the play. As a performer, Overton has a quirky allure. It was a nice contrast from Joel’s anxiety driven persona.
photo by Joseph Redl
Overton and Joel kept their piece simple when it came to staging and design. With voice-overs playing a big role in the piece, how they sounded was important. Whether intentional or not, there was a bit of a distortion attached to them. It added a flair of eeriness to the beats. The lighting was pretty basic except when an act of fate knocked them out. The addition of the LED lanterns not only offered some striking images, it forced you to pay attention to the detail in the words Overton and Joel spoke.
Help me out here is a basic story and a story we all know too well. That being said, there is something fascinating by the work done by Kaitlin Overton and Michael Joel. Help me out here is one of those extremely rare occasions where wearing all of the hats managed to work. Though bringing in an outside eye for the next go around could be beneficial. And believe me, there’s likely to be another go around of Help me out here.