Maya Macdonald’s new play LEAVE THE BALCONY OPEN isn’t a play in the traditional sense of the word. It is more of a meditation – a theme with variations – dealing with death, suicide, the loss of friends and the attempt at survival which takes place at a rural college campus a few days before graduation.
The odd assortment of characters are Ms. Macdonald’s new lost generation. A few of them are not particularly likable. The production is a combination of the natural and the surreal directed gamely by Jessica Bauman and beautifully lit by Cat Tate Starmer.
Every short scene is a detour usually ending in talk about death and suicide. It’s a strange, multi-media, seven actor performance piece lasting almost two hours without an intermission at the 3LD art & Technical Center (80 Greenwich Street @ Rector) which is at times confusing, poetic, indulgent and tiresome. Yet interesting.
It is fragmented. Like the explosive, shattered slats of wood set by Gabriel Hanier Evansohn which looks like a modern sculpture that has been blown to bits by a tornado. The tornado, in this case, being the many on campus deaths that have left the surviving students traumatized – especially Silent Gen (a remarkable Mary Rasmussen) who is mute throughout but conveys convincingly every thought and emotion flowing through her mind and body. The others come knocking at her door to be made over.
Bits and pieces of information are doled out slowly about the characters – who they are and their connection and/or disconnection to one another. There is Chrissy (Heidi Armbruster) the drama teacher who is trying to get Silent Gen to speak and act again. Prospective (a fine and intriguing Jerzy Gwiazdowski – could he be the new Ashton Kutcher?) who is testing the waters – deciding if he will attend the college as he has “exonerated” his parents. Julie Kline is I Almost Died Cathy/Chorus. Jared McGuire (looking for a hug) is Badly Drawn Johnny Depp/Chorus. Betsy Hogg is the perpetually drunk friend of June (Anna O’Donoghue) who wears a baby bump pillow. An odd assortment of characters to say the least.
When we eventually understand what has happened and the full extent of the experiences on these people we can finally relate to them but it is very long in coming.
The excellent sound design by Brandon Wolcott and his use of music helps tremendously to add atmosphere and interest. Projections by Jesse Garrison while apt, distract.
The title of the play, which doesn’t help, refers to a line of poetry from Lorca’s Freedom which also deals with death. LEAVE THE BALCONY OPEN is produced by New Feet Productions through February 26th.
www.leavethebalconyopen.com Photo: Suzi Sadler
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