Monday, February 19, 2018

Theatre AUM: "Weightless"

Theatre AUM and the Playwright's Lab at Hollins University in Virginia have established an on-going working relationship. AUM's Neil David Seibel has mentored students at Hollins for a few Summers, where he and colleagues from around the country nurture emerging talents.

Last year at AUM, Mr. Seibel mounted an imaginative production of  a Hollins product called Coupler, and is following up with another this season. Weightless by Meghan Reimers is a 70-minute fantasy from a playwright who shows much promise, and Mr. Seibel's inventive choreography and clever staging enhance this production's treatment of a young woman who "has no gravity" -- in fact, she "falls up" instead of down -- an interesting premise that goes on to explore real world environmental issues as well as various human relationships to demonstrate the power of compassion, understanding, and love.

It seems that Lucie [Kaylee Baker] has been cursed to live without gravity, and spends all her time in a lake; her mother Marie [Amy May] protects her at all costs, from both Lucie's untrustworthy free-spirited aunt Julie [Faith Roberts] and Caleb [Tony George], a young man who attempts to rescue the young woman from drowning and help reverse the curse so she can fall "down". Searching for a cure, Marie takes Lucie to Tarek [David Moore], a kind of hippie/New Wave "healer" who nonchalantly orders a variety of dangerous treatments.

Mike Winkelman's abstracted set [a large circle on the floor with pie shaped painted elements: fire, air, earth, water], and Val Winkelman's evocatively complimentary costumes, plus active use of fabric to represent the lake, give Mr. Seibel's actors a fluidity of motion to assist in telling the story; and his addition of actors playing the "Elements" uses inventive ways of showing how Lucie "falls".

Ms. Reimers's script keeps audiences guessing about relationships and responsibilities, but demonstrates clearly that people can connect on simple levels of friendship and more complex ones of parental protections for their children. Though we might question Marie's methods in caring for Lucie, and even more the sibling rivalries between Marie and Julie that are complicated by their use of magic, there s no doubt about the sincerity and innocence of the friendship between Lucie and Caleb that grows into love.

This production of Weightless has audiences engaged, though they miss several important lines of dialogue from Mr. Moore and Ms. Roberts, who either speak too softly or mumble words though they seem to be committed to the emotional aspects of their roles.

New voices in theatre are important, and Theatre AUM is again giving an opportunity to an emerging talent.