Scripter EM Lewis offers an endearing and insightful perusal into the lives of 16 rural Oregonians, dealing with the trauma of recent or impending death, during the course of a single day.

Scripter EM Lewis offers an endearing and insightful perusal into the lives of 16 rural Oregonians, dealing with the trauma of recent or impending death, during the course of a single day. Helmer Danny Parker-Lopes displays an engaging sensitivity as he guides a talented ensemble through Lewis’ vignettes, revealing cathartic shards of the tribulations endured by these memorable folk who are not totally prepared for the inevitable consequence of mortality. “Infinite Black Suitcase” is hauntingly underscored by the evocative sound design of Darcy Halsey.

In 14 short scenes, Lewis and Parker-Lopes distill the essences of fragile psyches in the throes of coping with the great unknown. The close-knit Kalinski family of Kal (Linc Hand), Stan (Ken Arquelio), Donna (Darcy Halsey) and Janie (Marina Mouhibian) offers a revealing portrait of siblings in crisis after the suicide of a family member. Arguelio memorably conveys Stan’s increasing anger with Kal’s and Janie’s inability to cope and move on.

In contrast, Jerry Pappas’s Stephen is deceptively flippant during visits to Dan’s (Eric Bunton) hospital bed, attempting to be the same witty, lighthearted bon vivant who originally won the heart of his barely mobile, terminally ill lover. Later, equally terminal Katie (Darcy Halsey) seeks Dan’s comrades-in-death solace, displaying her weariness at having to continue to be the strong Mother Earth figure in dealings with ex-husband Joe (Ryan Churchill) and current spouse Tony (Kim Estes).

On the lighter side, Dawn Merkel is a perky delight as April, a funeral coordinator who is doing her bright-eyed best to deal with the complications arising from Jake’s (Rich Williams) efforts to negotiate his second wife Anne (Anita Khanzadian) into the same burial plot as his first wife at Belle Passi Cemetery. Also, Bill J. Stevens offers droll, understated comic timing as Catholic priest Father Sebastian, attempting to offer advice and consolation to non-Catholic Frank (Hal Perry), who can’t reconcile his still-festering resentments after the death of his stern, disapproving father.

A highlight of the production is the painfully endearing efforts of recently widowed Mary (Tammy Kaitz) to make the tentative effort at actually initiating intimacy with Katie’s ex-hubby Joe, a nice guy she met at a bar who happens to be “age appropriate.” Their eventual meeting of the minds as to what can and cannot happen is a telling example of scripter Lewis’ ability to achieve compelling veracity within the interactions of needy souls.

Lewis gives evidence of being a significant talent to watch. “Infinite Black Suitcase” certainly has the legs to move on to a more ambitious staging.

Infinite Black Suitcase

Lillian Theater, Hollywood; 99 seats; $20 top

Production

A SpyAnts presentation of a play in one act by EM Lewis. Directed by Danny Parker-Lopes.

Creative

Sets, David Fofi; costumes, Marina Mouhibian; lighting, Kimberly Negrete; sound, Darcy Halsey; stage managers, W. Shay Hammond, Madelynn Fattibene. Opened, reviewed, Apr. 6. Closes May 6. Running time: 1 HOUR, 15 MINUTES.

Cast

Kal Kalinski - Linc Hand Stan Kalinski - Ken Arquelio Donna Kalinski - Darcy Halsey Dan Hanlon - Eric Bunton Stephen Miller - Jerry Pappas Janie Kalinski - Marina Mouhibian Katie Barnes - Darcy Halsey Joe Stricklin - Ryan Churchill Tony Barnes - Kim Estes Liz Miller - Addi Gaash Frank Harper - Hal Perry Father Sebastian - Bill J. Stevens April Merriweather - Dawn Merkel Jake Harrison - Rich Williams Anne Harrison - Anita Khanzadian Mary Oliver - Tammy Kaitz
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