Trusting one’s instincts (but backing them up with hard, cold facts) might be the theme of Earth and Sky, a contemporary take on film noir as live theater.
This morning, after seeing the play on the evening of November 1, I was still pondering the many twists in this clever plot and wondering if there were any holes in it. I’m still not sure.
That is a compliment to playwright Douglas Post.
If you haven’t been introduced to Silver Spring Stage before, this is a good time.
He has woven together a light-hearted (initially) love story and murder mystery, each moving in opposite chronological directions—the murder mystery goes forward, while the romance moves backward. There’s also a nod to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
Earth and Sky offers suspense and pathos as well as many moments of humor that catch you as unaware as the next plot twist.
It’s impossible to tell too much of the plot without giving critical things away. Suffice it to say that Sara McKeon, an idealistic poet and part-time library worker, has been involved in a 10-week intense relationship with David Ames, a slightly malaise restaurant owner who seems to find fulfillment with her with breakneck speed.
When David’s body is found in a dumpster, with a hole in his head, Sara finds herself impatient with the pace of the police investigation and, in true film noir style (except with the gender change), decides to investigate for herself.
Every time the puzzles pieces seem to fit, they get re-juggled.
The performances in Earth and Sky are effective, and a few stay with you (along with the plot twists). Kurt Riggs, in an understated turn as Detective H. E. Weber, is one of them. So are Marc Rehr as one of the cutthroat villains, Carl Eisenstadt, and Andy De as Billy Hart, a sympathetic bartender generous with his liquor when a distraught young woman like Sara comes along.
Sara Joy Lebowitz is onstage all the time as the heroine, a tough physical feat. Overall she captures the complexities of a woman who goes from a naïve poet to a grieving lover to a self-appointed “detective” driven to find out what happened to her boyfriend, and why.
Lebowitz’s strongest scenes are with an earnest Christopher Tully, as David Ames—whose tenderness, sense of humor, and concern make him appear to be the perfect lover. Or was he?
Director David Dieudonne has used the angular space of the theater and the undefined time and space (although the synopsis says the setting in Chicago) to full advantage and elicited good performances across the board. He also gives a chilling one himself as Julius Gatz, channeling the hoods played by a young Richard Widmark.
Juliana Ejedoghaobi as the elusive Marie, and Vanessa Terzaghi as Joyce, a friend with good timing, appear in the smaller female roles.
Post is to be commended for the film noirish style of his dramatic material—no bad language, suggestiveness but no explicitness or nudity, and “bloodless violence.” Dieudonne was true to the playwright’s intent in his direction.
Working in tandem, set designer Bob Benn and lighting designer Steve Deming have created an atmosphere that is both eerie and minimalist. The walls are bare, and there are very few props. Aside from platforms, there are pieces of furniture that get moved around, primarily by the actors, for multiple purposes.
Also effective was the sound direction by Roger Stone. Alika Codispoti stage-managed.
No one in the program is credited as costume designer. The costumes were contemporary and unobtrusive. The only choice I’d question (although it did make the staging easier) was Sara wearing the same outfit. In some scenes this works, and in others she seems to be inappropriately (for the occasion, that is) dressed.
The audience seemed very appreciative—one person commented to me that the play was “powerful,” and another that the plot twists were “clever.”
If you’re looking for a play that’s suspenseful, clever, and alas, sad, this is it. If you haven’t been introduced to Silver Spring Stage before, this is a good time.
Running Time: Two hours, no intermission
Advisory: A few instances of quick and non graphic violence. The use of strobe-like effects and firearms
Earth and Sky runs through November 22, 2014 at Silver Spring Stage—10145 Colesville Road in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets call (301) 593-6036 or purchase them online by clicking here.