Theatre review: ‘The Aliens’ at Firehouse theatre
If P then Q… It’s so simple. If you read into it you might go mad. If P, then Q…
The Aliens by Annie Baker is a play comprised mostly of silences. She even makes a specific note in the beginning of the script to say that at least 1/3rd of this play is silence.
To me, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing this play executed hyper-realistically by an ensemble is unafraid to bask in the glory of silence.
The Aliens tells the story of when Evan meets KJ and Jasper and how their relationships grow as artists and how their friendships strengthen with acceptance.
Ben Hill absorbed my attention with his performance as Jasper.
There were points in the play where I was really troubled by his presence. I could feel him panicking to grab on to any semblance of solid reality while he was just sitting in his chair looking off into the distance.
It was challenging for me to watch Jasper go through such a difficult time, but it was what made Hill’s performance particularly special. Every performance takes some energy out of an actor, and the focus required to truthfully re-create Jasper’s thoughts night after night can be taxing.
I used to think that this was part of the definition of a good performance, and maybe it is – but I realized the important thing is that I came out of this play feeling deeply affected by Hilll’s performance. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the full impact and reality of depression when you’re playing a “depressed” character, and I am so thankful to say the Hill was not afraid to take the audience to places that were a little scary and confusing for the sake of keeping the integrity of Jasper’s character.
That being said, I didn’t even recognize Denver Crawford as Evan!
It was like watching Foxcatcher and not knowing which part Steve Carell played until the movie ends. Except, Denver wasn’t wearing any special effects makeup or doing any substantial changes in his voice.
When he was on stage, he exuded an entirely different energy from the way he carried himself to the way he stood around with his own thoughts in his head.
I don’t think I truly realized the extent of Evan’s unassuming nature until I saw Denver’s performance. People say ignorance is bliss, but for Evan ignorance is fear and his whole life is a bundle of seemingly impossible expectations. Seeing the joy on his face when Jasper and KJ finally accept him made me relax and restored some of my hope for humanity.
So maybe that was why I barely recognized him after the play… That or maybe it’s because I drank some of that tea that KJ offered to me after the play…
Speak of the devil, KJ is the most exciting mystery meat served at the cafeteria line.
What I love about Maxwell Moore’s performance of KJ is that he never made a big show out of anything he did.
When I’ve seen this play before, the actors playing KJ make the mistake of playing his character as a big uncontrollable baby, doing ridiculous things just to be the center of attention. Moore avoided this trap by highlighting the KJ’s humanity, and through his deep friendship with Jasper by addressing his confusions about where his life was going.
Moore focuses his energy directly on the other actors and – when he does have his fun – sneezing or Zhwooping or what have you – he takes everyone with him. It’s not just fun for one person, he’s having fun with everyone and that makes Moore’s performance especially original and enjoyable to watch.
I do truly want to applaud Gary C. Hopper for bringing together such a perfect cast and crew for this production.
Firehouse made a beautiful production this play. I’ve been looking all around Richmond for this level of quality in theatre and I’m happy to say that firehouse went above and beyond my expectations. I highly encourage everyone to go see this play because it is important to see good theatre, and this play was great theatre.
If the play is great, then you should go see it. If P, then Q…
ALBEE FEST digs deep into the prolific playwrights past for multiple performances at Firehouse Theatre
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