Monday, June 04, 2012

The Closeness of the Horizon

The Closeness of the Horizon

 a world premiere
by Richard Martin Hirsch
directed by Darin Anthony
presented by CoffeeHouse Productions

review by Phillip Kelly

The Closeness of the Horizon is a show about the tendency for people to give meaning to things or to create stories surrounding incidents that may not actually exist and then live out their lives according to those stories, and how this effects every relationship around you. A person grapples with these meanings trying to make sense of them, trying to live up to them, and they fail because nothing they ever do will be good enough to match the ideal they have set for themselves.

Bruce Nozick plays Paul. He's done very well for himself and his wife, Annie (Shauna Bloom), due to a successful chain of sporting goods stores. Only he's just heard his once best friend, "G" (Daniel Kash) is dying from a brain tumor. This brings to the forefront of Paul's thoughts a lifetime of questions and frustrations that he thought he had gotten over. Upon their return, they quickly fester. The story jumps back and forth in time (1969 to 1990) as Paul deals with these memories and seeks resolution all while a midlife crisis approaches. 

One important memory seems to stand at the forefront. As a teenager, he, "G" and their jock friend Stein (Davis Starzyk) go on a road trip across America and one night listen to the radio transmission of the first trip to and first step on the moon. This is the most important thing to Paul and "G", bar none. Feeling the passion of the moment, they make a promise to do something great together after school - start a business. For Paul, his friendship with "G" was defined by this moment. But it may not be what defines "G"'s friendship with Paul. As the mystery unravels, so too does Paul's stability with his wife. Naturally, another woman comes into play, "G"'s wife Nissa (Mandy June Turpin). How exactly she comes into play, I will not say, but her story ties nicely into the framework of everything discussed so far.

Everyone named gives a fine performance, at times very involving, but the tone of these performances seems slightly askew at times. To match those would have fallen on Anthony's shoulders. It shifts from very real and intimate, perhaps too intimate for a space as big as this - framed in a close up, some of these moments would have shined. Other times, things become a bit campy. The one thing Anthony doesn't do in these moments is go for an easy laugh. There's always a foot planted firmly on the ground - Hirsch's dialogue are characters are always honest.

Like the performances, the set ranges from poetic to grounded to a bit campy. The most potent aspect of this is the moon that hovers slightly above the horizon in the background. There's a line Paul speaks  the end of the play, describing how his mental state of mind has been - his dreams feeling more real than his reality; his frustration and confusion. This gives some indication to how the play could have been treated, as I was never drawn into Paul's story in such a way that I felt his crumbling reality. Soon after this scene, flashing back to '69, there's a brief moment in which that moon in the background becomes the Earth, and it looks like the three teenage friends are, for a brief moment, standing on the moon. They didn't have to get anywhere else, they were already there. Here the play found the right tone. Instead of campy, a more surreal and poetic approach like this might have been embraced throughout. To clearly bring us into Paul's time shifting world, more scene transitions with lights up instead of going to black may have been required (this was used once or twice to great effect!), but a kind of clunky set made it difficult for this. The heavy handed treatment of the dreams could have been easily altered to match these other aspects as well.

Closeness is neither a tragedy or comedy, though I did genuinely laugh throughout and I felt the intensity as people came crashing together like bumper cars. At it's best, it's a slice of life, a human drama. At its worst it's a light drama, playing at the idea of becoming deeper and more profound. The problem there's little to hold onto when we leave, because everything is given to us too clearly; handed to us We aren't allowed to ask ourselves anything. Essentially, it frames itself too closely to ways we've seen this idea presented before and while at times Hirsch, Anthony and the performers handle themselves effectively and with dramatic gumption, the production overall falls short of great. But it's good with flashes of.


The Closeness of the Horizon
Presented by CoffeeHouse Productions and The Odyssey Theatre
Written by Richard Martin Hirsch
Direct by Darrin Anthony

Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
May 18th-June 24th, Thurs-Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm
Thurs/Fri $25, Sat/Sun $30
Te reserve tickets: 323-960-1054 or www.plays411.com/horizon

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