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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Review- Endoftheworld Lovesong (The Flea Theater & Northwestern University)

The Fab Marquee review by David Stallings.

The steps from good theater to excellent theater are paved with specificity. EndoftheWorld Lovesong, written by Matthew Stephen Smith, was a bit of good theater that lacked those specific moments to focus the piece. The concept of a world thrown into chaos from global warming, war in the Middle East, and a plummeting job market is a concept inspiring many writers today. The fact that it does at times seem to be an imminent reality draws in audiences easily; but sustaining attention is a more difficult task.

The plot revolves around a young woman, June (Amanda Duarte), who with the recent loss of her mother and a near fatal suicide attempt is near the edge of her rope. She suffers from panic attacks and the inability to own her own voice. This character and the subject matter combined are dangerously reminiscent of Marisol–and the addition of magical realism soon to follow make it impossible to watch the play without thinking about the Rivera piece. June works for a construction company on the brink of shutting down–in a climate where finding another job is improbable. She is constantly harassed by the noise of drilling and the cacophony of work sounds associated with a busy office. Add to this a radio show that tries to elevate spirits, but only succeeds in ampliphying confusion. The radio hosts, Jay-Jay (Jimmy Maize) and Trish (Chelsea O’Connor), also serve as a Greek Chorus, setting the scene and interacting with June directly–blurring reality lines and serving as a voice to her subconscious. These voices confuse June’s ability to control her relationships with her boss Anna (Raniah Day), friendly co-worker Carlo (Ben Masur), and love interest Alan (Jeremy Wimmer). Where Smith falls short with concept, he makes up with tenderness in the development of his characters. Each office member is lovingly written and evokes much empathy from the audience.

Jeremy Bloom’s direction does its best to add unique flavor to the play with magical moments of song and flight that beautifully illustrate June’s journey. Bloom is definitely a director with a point of view and his love of the piece is evident. Bloom falls short at times with specificity. There were moments where transitions and even locations were indistinguishable. His biggest shortcoming was the distinction between the public and the private. Scenes would seem intimate and isolated–and later the audience would learn they took place at a water cooler or coffee machine in full view of many people. Playing with these lines can be inventive, but in this piece it seemed more like an oversight than a choice. Bloom’s greatest achievement with the piece his ability to control the pace and rhythm within an inch of it’s life–understanding the play as if it was a musical composition.

Amanda Duarte shines in the role of June. Her innocent sweetness is not overplayed–and Duarte infuses humor into a character in much need of it. Ms. Duarte makes the complex emotional transitions with ease and grace–marking her as an obviously professional and gifted actress. Ben Masur’s gentle Carlo is believable and noteworthy. Raniah Day as Anna adds pace and light to her scenes.

Stephanie Tucci’s deconstructed set of metal and plastic is marvelous. She defined space better that the play itself and lent fantastic aesthetic to the world. Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew’s light are commendable–lighting The Flea is no easy task. She was able to isolate space and create mood under daunting conditions.

Overall, the piece was enjoyable and very good quality on an Off-Off Broadway level. Each element showed great potential and with more development and focus on what makes the piece unique, the play could really go somewhere.

The Flea Theater & Northwestern University present
Matthew Stephen Smith’s
EndoftheWorld Lovesong
September 9th-14th, 2008
The Flea Theater

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