Saturday, March 05, 2011

Landscape - with stick figures (review)

Stark. A dark topic with a script that somehow comes off as mournful as it does menacing. Not an easy feat to pull off, but the SceneShop crew did an admirable job of dealing not with answers, but rather the lack of them.


To say that ‘Landscape with stick figures’ is not a comedy would be an understatement akin to pointing out that sunburn is not as fun as sex. Fortunately, that’s the way it was supposed to be.

Not usually one to jump on the bandwagon of read plays, Bodega Train found being immediately drawn into this tale a smooth excursion from the get go.

The story launches immediately into the grief by a mother torn between loving her son and coping with the reality that he has mercilessly gunned people down, several of them fatally.

Instead of simply heading in a linear direction, the dialogue skips effortlessly from one time frame to another knitting the events together in a relative way that keeps one guessing even though knowing the details of the crime upfront.

The stage setting fit the mood perfectly. Absolute simplicity. A black stage fronting a white wall and a couple of black cubes serving as seating and podium props. The actors, when not seated to the side, floated about wearing black shirts and black trousers.

It was hard to tell if those were real tears in the eyes of Ethan Salisbury, convincingly portrayed by Peter Bowden, but the effect was powerful.

Again, no answers are offered here. In fact, the most defining properties on display are the imaginary lines drawn within the boundaries of accountability. The attorneys on both sides of the court case seem almost as concerned with high profile image as they are with the fate of the defendant, who is either a heartless monster or a victim of his surroundings depending on one’s point of view.

Directed by Steven Alan McGaw, Landscape provided an evening of entertainment that leaves the audience curious for what is to come next from SceneShop.

Oh, on a side note, that peculiar music starting and ending the second act turns out to have been a piece of Television’s Marquee Moon as performed by The Kronos Quintet.

Appropriately stark.

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