Saturday, February 4, 2012

Expecting To Fly by Michael Hyman

Casey Kringlen (L) & Justin Mortelliti (R) photo by Mark Barnes
By Joe Straw

Theatre Planners presents Expecting to Fly, a world premiere play, by Michael Hyman and directed by Kiff School at The Elephant Theatre in Hollywood.

The time is the present.  The place, by Set Designer Keith Mitchell, is an apartment in New York City.  Not just an apartment but a two level dirty dingy space, with a couch to sleep on center stage, torn paintings upstage right, alcohol bottles and pills scattered throughout. A dancing pole is upstage left, and a chin-up bar upstage left center.

Sean (Casey Kringlen) appears in a flash.  The next flash reveals Jared (Justin Mortelliti) in leather attire.  Each, in flash, holds their right side as though they are protecting something.  The action and what it represents is unclear.

Jared comes back to his apartment, after a night of decadence, completely wasted.  His partner, Sean, is somewhere in the apartment, unseen at first, but later appearing.

“Sean! Are you here?” – Jared

There is no response.

A ripped Jared disrobes to his underwear and falls onto the couch to slumber. And in his brief moment of sleep, Sean climbs the couch and whispers something into his ear waking him up.

Jared asks him why he is there.

“I lost my place.” - Sean

Sean is Jared’s capricious friend. And Sean is not going to let Jared sleep a wink.  Not on his life.  Sean is there to torment his promiscuous friend.

But there’s something odd here.  Sean knows everyone he has been sleeping with and that they all look at lot like him. Sean seems to like this behavior. And he curiously wants to know why Jared is sleeping with men that look like him:  Is it that Jared still loves him or the image that was him?

Was him?

Sean and Jared don’t really connect because Sean is, in fact, dead.  (It is apparent in the opening moments so I don’t believe I’m giving anything away.)

Why? Following a severe depression, Jared tells Sean their marriage is “done”.  And he does this on the roof of a twelve-story building.  This, under normal circumstances, is not really a good idea.

But is Sean really haunting Jared?  Or is this just a hallucination from binge drinking and excessive pill taking? Or a combination of both?

It can’t be the pills and the drugs because they eventually wear off and Sean is still there telling stories and reliving their past life.

But why is Sean there?  Why doesn’t he leave?

Does Sean need to find out if Jared truly loves him before he goes?  Does he need to feel the happiness of the one perfect kiss, the kiss that lasted “228 seconds”, or was it “229 seconds”?  Why they counted doesn’t matter.  They just can’t agree on anything, including the length of the kiss.

Sean is afraid of leaving because he doesn’t know where he will go after he leaves and he is anxious of the alternative bad ending.

“Am I going up or down?” - Sean

One thing is very clear in Michael Hyman’s play—Sean comes back to get something from Jared that he did not get during his lifetime.  To get him to make the ultimate commitment and clean up his act would be one objective. And all of Sean’s actions should take us to that objective. 

Kiff Scholl, the director, gives us a rather odd interpretation to Michael Hyman’s play. Or maybe one does not get his perspective.  In this ninety-minute one act play, the actors seem to fly about the stage without purpose or meaning.  The actions on stage do not compliment the meaning of the play.

Why are the actors climbing on bookcases, sliding down poles, doing chin-ups for what purpose? How does it strengthen or destroy the relationship?  How does this clarify the objective? Why isn’t there a reaction when Sean teeters on the edge of a window seal without any reaction from Jared?   Why doesn’t Sean hide the pills? Why doesn’t he get rid of the liquor?  If he is able to move jackets and articles of clothing, why not that?

Also, I’m not sure what that globe was outside the apartment.  Is it the moon? And why does it keep going moving in and out of focus?

Casey Kringlen as Sean has a good look and has some very nice moments. There is something he wants and it is not until the end of the play that he finds restitution, his sole purpose of being, or not being. There are many more levels to explore in this character. Ultimately Sean wants Jared to stop his ways, open his eyes, and start living right.

“Call Jeff again.” - Sean

Justin Mortelliti as Jared also has some very fine moments. There are many more levels to this character.   His objective is not clear.  We never get a sense of what he wants from Sean.  One believes that he wants Sean to go away but he is emotionally stuck.  He is unable to come to grips that he has yet to utter the words “I love you.” to anyone, much less Sean.   Also, he has a life as a painter but we see very little of  that backstory.  

(Okay, so what would I want if someone were haunting every waking moment of my apartment life?  I would want that person to go away so that I could go on with my life.)

But Jared never wants this.  He is at his happiest when being haunted and being told silly stories until the cows come home.  He doesn’t explore the possibilities of finding out what exactly Sean wants, or how to get him out of his life.  So there must be some kind of action to help in this regard. To push him into the heights of heaven or the burning flames of hell would be my guess.  

Andrew Crabtree plays Jared and Mason McCulley play Sean as understudies when needed. 

Michael Hyman’s play has a lot to say about the human condition.  He has an intuitive approach to love, which in reality could be applied to men or woman, gay or straight.  There is a very interesting moment when Sean appears ready to leave but changes his mind when it is uncertain which path is predetermined for him.  He doesn’t know if he’s going up or down.  The sound effects on stage reflects an ending worse than death and I’m not sure if that is intentional in the writing or the direction.

Opening week presents all sorts of problems.  It’s very peculiar situation.  When things don’t necessarily go well, the audience lets you know.  Fortunately, the problems presented are fixable.  Get rid of the stuff that doesn’t work and add to what does.

Nicely produced by Racquel Lehrman.  The Lighting Designer is Matt Richter.  The Costume Designer is Shannon Kennedy.  Casting was by Michael Donovan.  The Portrait Painter was nicely done by Dan Mailley.

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