Kyle Hatley has brought a highly imaginative work to life that jumps through time and circumstances surrounding Victor (Rusty Sneary). Victor is haunted by his own mental state, his mother’s murder, and his current disgraced service in the United States Army, all tied together with the grief over losing his soul mate, Marie (Grey Williamson) to The War Hero (Jeff Smith). A cast of 16 flows in and out of various characters and representations, and set pieces and actors move in and around the full space of the 3rd floor of The Living Room Theatre. It is a loud, bright, dark, disturbing work that travels down a squiggly line.
Linnaia McKenzie (Nina Simone) and the band provide an exceptional live musical performance helps carry the production. With the ensemble changing and moving, they provided an anchor, and an indicator, of the play progression. This is an ambitious, heavy work that is exhausting for both the actor and the audience member. It is important to have key figures, such as Linnaia McKenzie’s music, helping to pull along the show.
As a world premiere, it is still going through growing pains. It is an intense, 3 hour show. A rather large group of patrons (6-8) left at intermission because they said they ‘already know what’s going to happen.’ The goal of drama is to keep the audience on their seats, to have them asking ‘What next?’ This feeling of ‘What next?’ and excitement was pulling in the second act, especially with The Captain (Charles Fugate) and the recruits. In the first act, at the beginning, we are told everything as an audience and then there is an artistic circle back. Perhaps to drive the drama, look at what is working in Act II and move that style to Act I.
Also, what scenes can be cut, while still keeping the story? Keep it moving quickly, but still punctuate it with those sweet scenes with the Astromer (Charles Fugate) and Young Victor (Andrew Stout), and the scenes with Young Victor and Marie as a Girl (Leah Simmons). The more the regular action is quick paced – just like the great scene with all the jump and rolls with the recruits and The Captain – the sweeter the other scenes will be.
The scene with the water glass and nickel. Why is that in there? If it’s important, the audience doesn’t understand why, so it needs to be explained. What about cutting down the dress scene and the parade scene? If they are important, let’s find out why. Why the scene with every one in the black nightgowns? It was funny, but it shocked us out of the action.
Also, the audience was confused by the Fortune Teller (Vanessa Severo). Since it’s such a jumpy, insane play, would it be best to just have one muse, Ani? (Vanessa Severo). Again, if they’re both important, communicate why.
This is an important work, and there is so much to see and think about. Since it’s a work in progress, there are some items the director and writer can work on to move it to be an even more solid production. It’s definitely got a stellar cast, haunting staging, and a gorgeous soundtrack. Now comes the work of paring it down what is essential for the drama to progress.
The ending, with the kids, was amazing. Don’t change that.