Sunday, July 23, 2017

Any Night by Daniel Arnold & Medina Hahn


Marie Fahlgren and Zac Thomas

By Joe Straw

“A man must identify himself with something more tangible than his own personality…”  Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent

Open your mind to the imagination of a dream, where the unknown inhabitants of your mind are images from your REM sleep.   

Imagine the jutting image of a man who comes to you. First it is a faint fiber and then moving closer the image sharpens until He is suddenly clear. 

He busies himself in your dream, keeping a watchful eye on unsuspecting young female patients.  You are now in a sleeping clinic, or that's what the sign says that you can barely make out. 

An uncomfortable feeling surrounds you as He watches Her.  He is rankled with bestial affinities and febrile pulsations as he pursues what he wants and, in the process, you see that he manages to be entertained by her peculiarities.

Wanting more, this maintenance man spies Her medical chart.  It is all there in the patient’s file – Her phone number, address, and place of work.  It says she is a dancer and you see as much in the dream as she is dancing in the background, in the clinic.

He posts a sign, “Apt for Rent,” in Her dance studio.  She took the bait and now she is ensnared in his web, a leaking, and fetid basement apartment.

The Filigree Theatre & EVN Production Presents the L.A. Premiere of Any Night by Daniel Arnold & Medina Hahn directed by Elizabeth V. Newman and produced by Stephanie Moore through July 30th, 2017 at the Sacred Fools Theatre in Hollywood.

In light and darkness, imaginary or real, she dances on the floor in a dream state.

Anna (Marie Fahlgren) arrives to view the new apartment and it is odd. As in a dream, the images of sight, either real or imaginary, float around her like the broken spokes of a wheel, on the walls, with pipes, and a fragmented bits of life that is just as jarring as part of her life’s little slumbering nightmares. (Beautiful set sculptures by Vanessa Montano.)

Shrouded in secrecy in the basement, the apartment is made of diaphanous walls accompanied now with an unidentifiable viable clatter.  She is totally unaware they are listening, and watching.     

For her, this seems like the right place at the right time, following a breakup with her boyfriend Ben (not seen); it will do for now. She won’t be disturbing the downstairs neighbors because she is in the basement. 

Anna is aware of her sleeping disorder, and it is one that listens to the fragmented music, in complete darkness, with fictive pictures.   

Today in the rain, Anna is moving into the dank apartment.   

An obtrusive Patrick (Zac Thomas) walks into Anna’s apartment and watches her carrying a heavy box.  He then purposefully turns off the lights.  In the dark, Anna drops the box to the floor, breaking her alarm clock.  

And in the course of a few days, time being relative, Patrick slowly ingratiates himself but then he becomes totally obtrusive, breaking her window, fixing things in her apartment, putting bars on her window and just not being honest about many things.

It is a relationship that becomes tenuous at best and terrifying at the worst – worst than your worst nightmare. 

The running time is about 77 minutes so it’s better not to give too much away.

Now is a good time to speak to the craft.

The dancing:

Erica Gionfriddo, the Choreographer, gives us a stunning look of one who is embroiled in sleep disorder and how that may look to an audience. From its first moment, it is an exquisite display. But when two are involved through the dance, we lose sight of where these characters are going, the through line of reality, fantasy, or both.   What purpose does Patrick serve to be a part of that dance?  After the first dance, the dance is repetitive and not alluring, or seductive for the one doing the forced seducing.  One has to get pleasure from the dance, preferably the antagonist, and the other must be pained by abusive action and the inability to wake up. Yes, she must wake up.

Marie Fahlgren

The acting:

Marie Fahlgren (Anna) is stunning creature; a dancer well suited for the role. She is dressed in white unsexed pajama set throughout and one wonders at times if she is in a constant dream state. Something is going on in Anna’s life, she needs something to beat the predicament that she is in.  She must be thinking about how to solve her problems throughout.  The dance alone in her apartment appears to be a modern dance against the forces surrounding her.  It is worrisome, jarring, and not quiet dangerous enough for even the avid onlooker to pay coin. (Sorry for being vague here – not to give so much away.) More costumes, better suited, one that is a little more revealing would help. There should be a moment of joy in her dance, one of enlightenment, and wonder.  Fahlgren’s overall choice for the character’s objective requires definition and needs to be more creative.

Zac Thomas as Patrick is a fine specimen.  A strong man able to lift the women with the easiest of intention and move her to any position he desires.  And yet, we rarely see the desire within him, the want, and the inescapable magic of why this man wants this woman.  The dance is violent and he gets no pleasure from the way in which he moves her about. The acting demands stronger creative choices from this character. A similar type of character comparison might be Anthony Perkins in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Psycho, a creepy character with bad intentions.  Patrick is, at times, in his room, typing on his keyboard but Thomas gives the character very little movement in those moments, just his hands on the keyboard.  We don’t see his purpose, his objective, and what he is viewing on screen, especially when it involves Anna dancing alone in her room.

To understand this play, one should sets aside the now, absorb the content, and pick up the ambiguity in this play.  The director, Elizabeth V. Newman, lets the choreography go on without focus to the story, moving the dreamlike story along. The actors are not fluid in their characters moving from distrust, to like, to love and then back to hate again, a normal relationship without the terrifying build that is needed, and this is done without each character discovering, or wondering what the other one was up to.  Anna should be investigating her surroundings from the time she moves in and wondering why this guy is all over her. Patrick needs more conflict to move the story along.  He should be answering the question of his conflict  and trying to discover why things are not working and what he needs to do to make them work.

Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn, the playwrights, have written a terrific play.  But, this is a play that could be more terrifying, create greater suspense, and fly in a manner of a suspense drama. At a certain point I found myself asking, where are these characters going and for what purpose?  Patrick has done this once before with a prior tenant that did not end well. Anna confronts Patrick outside the apartment building smoking a cigarette.  She asks for a drag.  They bond a little but knowing what we all know, why wasn’t there more of a backstory to this scene? The lip-syncing scene was nice but, how did it move the story along?

A lot of work went into this production.  It is a brilliant piece but one that needs a stronger focus in character and story.

Pete (Voiced by Ben McLemore) was also in the cast.

Other members of the crew are as follows:

Eliot Gray Fisher – Sound Design
Chris Conard – Lighting Design & Tech Director
Gary Thomas – Stage Manager
Karl C. Leone – Assistant Stage Manager
Steve Moyer Press Relations – Press Representative
Elena Weinberg – Social Media Consultant

Run! And take a somnambulist with you, someone you would not trust to drive your car on the way home. 

@ Sacred Fools Theatre
1076 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA  90038

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