TheatreLAB’s ‘Oblivion’ easily captured the audience thanks to an amazing production
The play was good. It made me laugh and think. The seats I had were bad as I was looking at the play through the back of some man’s huge head. Would I see it again? Sure, if I got there earlier and snagged a better seat.
I hope TheatreLAB and Director Jeffrey Cole appreciate my blunt wording in an attempt to channel character Pauline Kale as I write a review of their production of Carly Mensch’s Oblivion. The play is about Julie (Zoe Cotzias), who is going through an identity crisis – as many do at the age of 16 – by actively converting to Christianity behind her parents back through her close, strange friendship with Bernard (Joseph Nelson).
Julie’s flagrantly liberal parents Pam (Kimberly Jones Clark) and Dixon (Joe Pabst) attempt to reach out to their daughter and discover what she is keeping a big secret. Once they do, many challenging questions are dug up between the married couple as each family member begins to question their own identity.
All the while, Bernard is filming his portrait of their generation with Julie as the main character. He is inspired by a book of reviews he read by Pauline Kale to write her letters in the hopes that she will answer his questions and help him become a better filmmaker and artist… That is until right at the end of the first act when he comes to the harsh discovery that Pauline Kale has been dead since 1991.
This fantastic quartet of actors play off of each other so well; if they ever fell out of rhythm, lost focus, or even dropped their lighter- their dedication to their characters, and the reality of the moment, was easy to get lost in.
I’ll explain the moment I referenced just before: Dixion (Joe Pabst) was about to light up a joint to share with Bernard when the lighter slipped out of his hands and landed underneath the couch. Joe had to awkwardly lie down and try to find this lighter for about a half a minute while expertly going through his lines until he finally finds the lighter and exhaustedly lets out “I hate it when that happens.”
Those little moments are what make me smile because they truly distinguish theatre from most other art forms. The immediacy of action on stage and the unspoken attention the audience pays as they journey through the play and watch the story unfold builds a great bond unlike any other medium.
Matthew Bauserman did a fantastic job of capturing the image of a successful, lavish and tolerant household by decorating the set with marble table tops, half empty bottles of hard liquor presented on the shelves next to philosophy books and game boards. Even the minimalist art piece which interchanges as a projection screen for the transitions between scenes and showing of the movie adds to the hipster aesthetic.
Michael Jarett takes charge of the space with such a creative mastery of light, directing your attention to wherever he sees fit. The strong choices of color used in different scenes and spotlights used to help Bernard narrate his letters to Pauline Kale truly lay the railway for this play to charge full speed with fluidity and direction.
Cole brought together this fantastic group of actors and made me feel like I was really watching a family on stage.
There was never a moment when I couldn’t hear or understand what someone said, or I couldn’t see someone’s face (other than the fact that I was sitting behind a gigantic head).
The choices of music, transitions and intention made me reflect on my own identity and what it means for any of us to exist as artists in this confusing and seemingly judgmental world where we live.
Everyone, go see this play! This is TheatreLAB’s second production in their new space at The Basement. Get your tickets soon because Oblivion runs only through March 7th.
NERVE: Stories of Queer Resilience started out as a passion project for many involved, but has ended up as nothing short of inspiring. The project is a collaboration between Richmond Triangle Players, TheatreLAB, the Virginia Anti-Violence Project, and other members of the community. With a style described by the director, Melissa Reyford, as similar to [...]January 18, 2017
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