Expecting to Fly
Theatre Planners at the Elephant Space
Reviewed by Neal Weaver
January 31, 2012
Photo by Mark Barnes
Michael Hyman’s long one-act takes its title from the Neil Young song. It’s set in late evening in a spectacularly cluttered NYC loft apartment (artfully designed by Keith Mitchell). A young man, Jared (Justin Mortelliti), comes barreling in drunk, high, angry, and exhausted. As he disrobes and prepares for bed, he talks and complains nonstop to someone we can’t see. Eventually, Sean (Casey Kringlen) emerges, and it seems that the men are estranged former lovers. Yet unanswered questions lurk: If the two have had a breakup, why are they still cohabiting? And why is there no bed, only a small sofa?
Jared is exhausted and wants only to sleep, but Sean insistently berates him for his self-destructive vodka swilling and promiscuity and suggests that they’re an attempt to escape the love and closeness he fears. To which Jared can only reply, “You don’t understand me.” Sean sets to work to re-create the happy moments they’ve shared in the past (“I want to remind you what it’s like to be happy,” he says). Jared alternately allows and repulses Sean’s attempts to close the gap between them.
At first they seem merely a pair of ex-lovers playing the blame game, but gradually we realize that more is going on than we’ve been told. It’s a tale of passionate love and loss, touching on issues of faith and trust, with elements of the supernatural, metaphysics, and exorcism. Hyman brings us a taut, convincing, carefully calibrated anatomy of a close yet stormy relationship. And director Kiff Scholl gives the piece a faithful if surprisingly athletic production, with the actors frequently leaping from platforms, climbing the furniture, or tumbling on the floor. It’s a little disconcerting at first, but it serves to underline the oddity and subjectivity of the tale. Still, I’d gladly have traded the gymnastics for clarity of diction. The words aren’t inaudible, but sometimes they’re muffled or swallowed.
The actors are deeply committed to their roles and play off each other in a subtle and intriguing symbiosis. Mortelliti is masculine and volatile, flinging himself around violently in his inarticulate pain. Kringlen is more purposeful and feline, determined in his attempts to make his partner admit the strength of his love.
Sound designer Corwin Evans provides a soundtrack of big-city ambience, and Matt Richter’s lighting cleverly draws us into the strangeness of the tale.
Presented by Theatre Planners at the Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Jan. 28–March 4. Fri. and Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (323) 960-5772 or www.plays411.com.