Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: The Beauty of Intimacy

By Michael Block

What brings two humans together? Is it fate? Or maybe circumstance? Perhaps it's a superpower. A play about human connection, Omega Kids by Noah Mease is a subtly stunning drama about two young men spending a rainy evening in an unfurnished apartment as they bond over the titular comic book while exploring the bounds of their newfound companionship.
Produced by New Light Theater Project in association with Access Theater, Omega Kids follows Michael and Michael as one gushes over his favorite comic universe and it's new reboot as the other looks longingly for something else. While they both seem to be on the same page, there's a fear of uncertainty that defies the magnetic force. If you read Noah Mease's text, it may feel like it's literally about two guys talking about comics. It's like Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation. It's all in the subtext. The beauty is defined in the physicalization of the pair. With the tools on the page paired with Jay Stull's impeccable direction, Noah Mease has crafted a marvelous universe. It’s a spellbinding story. It’s a modern story yet it’s timeless. The characters are simple yet clear.
Omega Kids captures the intricacies of human connections. And Jay Stull insured this in his approach of the piece. His work was exceptional to say the least. The two Michaels have a special relationship. Stull unfolds the nature of their friendship slowly and at times sloppily. Yet Stull and Mease makes us believe we know them from the start. And know them well. Stull's vision capitalized on the intimacy. Every beat was intricately active, continuing the narrative through the transitions. His focus on storytelling was careful. Each scene, as they grew closer, how Stull positioned them in the room and in the floor, how they were sitting and where the focus was, each moment was alive. If your heart wasn't beating fast with the late game foot touch, you might not be an owner of a heart. Speaking of, this scene may have been Mease's strongest writing.
photo by Hunter Canning
The power of intimacy was carried through the exquisite technical design. The play was staged literally within a black box. Sitting a level above the cream colored carpeted floors, the space was small yet scenic designer Brian Dudkiewicz made the space feel vast. To help bring personality into this world, lighting designer Scot Gianelli allowed a flow to illuminate from below the rafters and reject off the ceiling. The bursts of color became more prominent, filling the space, as the Michaels grew closer but the second the draw of love broke, the snap of color dissipated and the luster disappear. And that moment was heartbreaking. It's a turn that you hate happened but it's far too real. Not every story can have a happy ending. As you sat in the lobby, an atmospheric drone fills the room. Sound designer Eben Hoffer continues the design into the show with great precision. The atmospheric cues, such as running water, were not stock sounds. They sounded real. When a cue is introduced, like the flushing of a toilet, and it sounds like an effect, it pulls you out and ruins the moment. Though some were superfluous, Hoffer's ability to root his design in reality allowed the authenticity of the universe to feel present.
This play is a celebration of chemistry. Omega Kids would not be what it is unless the pair of actors weren’t as strong. As the Michaels, Fernando Gonzalez and Will Sarratt were extraordinary. As the more dominant of the two, Gonzalez found layers upon layers as the kid with a troubled past. He played things coy with the other Michael yet the slight smile he often brought out told a different story. Opposite him, Sarratt took on the shy kid who comes to life when the conversation revolves around a comic book. The exploration of comfort was a joy to watch. With the story occurring over only a few hours, Sarratt’s Michael ran the gamut of feelings impeccably.
No matter who you are, there is something to relate to in Omega Kids. Noah Mease’s play is nice but vastly elevated by the remarkable direction by Jay Stull. Omega Kids truly is a spellbinding production. To commemorate the show, you get a take home souvenir comic book. If you were touched by the play, glance through the comic book, created by Mease. It’s filled with so much more that adds to the show.