Thursday, February 23, 2012

AUTOBAHN • Soundstage Productions/R-S Theatrics

A girl on her way home from rehab, an inappropriate trip to a cabin in the woods, and a series of pre-interpretations that turn "make-out" point into "break-up" point and then back again -- these are some of the situations explored in Neil LaBute's 2003 collection of seven brief one-act, two-characters plays, and it's getting a fittingly intimate production by Soundstage Productions/R-S Theatrics.  (<-- Sorry.  Longest sentence ever.)

While these vignettes are unrelated, they all take a look at relationship dynamics, and take place in the front seat of a car.  The additional common denominator is the fact that they are also language-oriented.  David Mamet is one of LaBute's favorite playwrights, and in like fashion, connotations and perceptions of meaning are examined and the "here's the dark underbelly" of things are uncovered.
Funny - Ellie Schwetye and Jan Mantovani
While the plays feature a conversational rhythm, some of them are more of an exchange, and some of them are monologues.  Most start mid-conversation, and the depths and details, sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, are hidden under these layers that become exposed, bit by bit.  The reactions of the "less vocal one" play a large part in each presentation.
"Funny" is a monologue featuring a chatty teen-ager on her way home from rehab, who informs her mom that she still may not be completely off the junk, so buckle up (Ellie Schwetye and Jan Mantovani).  "All Apologies" is another monologue with a guy trying to dig himself out of the hole he has created when he called his wife a four-letter word in public (Phil Leveling and Betsy Bowman).  In both cases, the body language of Jan Mantovani as the mom in "Funny" and the wife, Betsy Bowman in "All Apologies", add much to the scenes.  "Long Division" has two buddies out to reclaim a gaming system from an ex-girlfriend (Phil Leveling and Jared Sanz-Agero).  "Autobahn" (Ellie Schwetye and Jared Sanz-Agero) has to do with a wife having to rationalize the fact that she and her husband have just had to return their foster child.
Bench Seat - Betsy Bowman and Phil Leveling
On the more dialogue-driven side, we've got "Bench Seat" -- one of the best for me -- that features a couple (Betsy Bowman and Phil Leveling) and their very different intentions concerning a drive to a scenic point in town.  "Road Trip" (Caroline Kidwell and Mark Abels) has a high-school teacher taking one of his students to a remote spot "to play house".  Ew...  "Merge" (Jan Mantovani and Mark Abels), another favorite, shows us a wife explaining to her frustrated husband the fragmented memories of her recent indiscretions during a business trip.
The more vocal ones in these pairs are all wonderful, and again, the reactions and body languages of the less vocal ones are equally impressive.  The formula that LaBute employs can become a little predictable, but the provocative starkness of the set (Mark Kelley & Brian Peters) along with the performances, keep you engaged throughout.
Only one more weekend to check this one out!
Road Trip - Caroline Kidwell
and Mark Abels
Written by Neil LaBute
Directed by GP Hunsaker, Nick Moramarco, Landon Shaw and Randy Stinebaker 
Crestwood ArtSpace, 214 Crestwood Court
through February 26 | tickets: $15
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm
Funny - Ellie Schwetye and Jan Mantovani
Bench Seat - Betsy Bowman and Phil Leveling
Road Trip - Caroline Kidwell and Mark Abels
Long Division - Phil Leveling and Jared Sanz-Agero
Merge - Jan Mantovani and Mark Abels
All Apologies - Phil Leveling and Betsy Bowman
Autobahn - Ellie Schwetye and Jared Sanz-Agero
Scenic design by Mark Kelley & Brian Peters; lighting design by Mark Kelley;
sound design by Mark Kelley.

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