Soho Rep and True Love Productions
THOSE THAT RESEMBLE FLIES FROM A DISTANCE
By MELISSA JAMES GIBSON
Soho Rep, www.sohorep.org
January 22 – February 14, 2004, EXTENDED to February 28!
Directed by DANIEL AUKIN
Stage Manager EVAN CABNET
Lighting Designer MATT FREY
Composer MICHAEL FRIEDMAN
Costume Designer MAIKO MATSUSHIMA
Projection Design ELAINE J. McCARTHY
Sound Designer SHANE RETTIG
Scenic Designer LOUISA THOMPSON
Publicity SAM RUDY MEDIA RELATIONS
Sallie – Christina Kirk
Lyle – Thomas Jay Ryan
Karl – Jeremy Shamos
Jen – Colleen Werthmann
If not an ironic choice of scheduling, then it is some kind of cosmic comedic circumstance that has the all too short run of Melissa James Gibson’s SUITCASE OR, THOSE THAT RESEMBLE FLIES FROM A DISTANCE ending on February 14. For, if any play that features two couples struggling to communicate could be less reminiscent of romance while still remaining as funny and intelligent as this one is, I would be hard-pressed to name it. This witty, wordy creation is part relationship play, part contemporary allegory, superficially anti-romantic and linguistically dense. Whatever words define SUITCASE, I thought it was a must-see show.
Introducing a quartet of diverse but interesting characters, SUITCASE reveals these people to us not so much through action, but through stagnation and discourse. The women, Jen (Colleen Werthmann) and Sallie (Christina Kirk) stay steadfastly in their homes no matter how desperate, demanding or needy their respective partners become for face-to-face interaction. The men, Lyle (Thomas Jay Ryan) and Karl (Jeremy Shamos) try everything within reason to gain physical access to their girlfriends’ lives, but are kept at a distance. Even the two women, though they reference trips together, here only communicate via telephone as they simultaneously engage in vicarious activities like watching other people’s home movies via binoculars, listening to a woman’s discarded audio journal, and interacting with the boyfriends via intercom.
If the activity sounds busy, it is, but only verbally. There are layers of dialogue going on most of the time, but rather than overlap, they have been precisely scripted and meticulously acted so that there is fluidity on all fronts. This carefully woven tapestry of talk makes SUITCASE one of the most satisfying theatrical experiences I have had in quite a long time. There are scores of good, quotable lines in Ms. Gibson’s script, but I am not going to quote any of them for you. Go see the play in person, and get the full, integrated experience!
I suppose the author of a play like SUITCASE could be accused of flaunting her own verbal acuity through her characters’ dialogue. I suppose much could be made of the stylishly sophisticated wordplay that is fantastically poetic in an unlikely way, and the fact that one nary meets anyone who speaks this way. I suppose I could go on for quite a long time about how exciting and refreshing it is to find a modern playwright who not only does not dumb it down for the audience, but who celebrates language in such a splendid and unbridled way.
It is not just the language that works here. Everything comes together, from the tight direction to the meticulously timed cast to the deceptively simple set to the on point costumes and lighting, to the people in the projections and the voices on tape, everything in this just where it should be in this SUITCASE.
So, again, see SUITCASE while you can. In a place where detritus and discourse are intrinsically linked with dating and debate, all things find their niche. In this city, where scores of plays are in production at any given moment, playwright Melissa James Gibson shines.
- Kessa De Santis -