Presented by Alley Cat Theater
Written by John Grenier-Ferris
Directed by Megan Schy Gleeson
Original music by Peter Warren & Matt Somalis
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston, MA) Plank is an allegory for life. The ocean can be kind but it is often cruel. Those with fears of open water, or an unmoored life may want to meditate on this before viewing.
Plank takes place in the ocean far from the safety of land. Potpee (Poornima Kirby) is set adrift after her ship sank. We don’t know why or how but we do know that it’s up to her to stay sane as she drifts according to the whimsy of the water. She is “rescued” by Mercedes (a Tilda Swinton-esque Liz Adams) and Thimble (Sydney Grant) whose brands of courtesy run too close to willful emotional illiteracy. Potpee hears the ocean beckon even on land. Sometimes it takes a madness to remain mostly sane. The cast is rounded out by Fray Cordero and Adam Lokken.
The staging/choreography work by director Megan Schy Gleeson is beautiful. Movements are modern dance based with added yogic poses. Gleeson and her cast strike a balance that ensembles should strive for. They are strong but gentle, fierce but forgiving. The cast doesn’t look like the ocean but their work captures the essence of the ocean.
The scenic, lighting and projection, costume and music design work are top notch. The designers work together to give us a distinct place, and abstraction of time that is ethereal. In particular, Barbara Craig’s projections evoke “The Little Mermaid” (the fairytale, not the Disney movie). The one potential small edit could be editing the nighttime star sequence. The video briefly takes the eye out of the scene as the recording resets as is.
Grenier-Ferris’s play is 105 minutes long. It reads like two plays in one. The first is a climate change activism fairytale in the water. The second is a political morality tale heavy on factual metaphors on land. They would pair well together in an evening of short plays. Woven together, they are psychically heavy, and run long enough to put audience members to sleep (this happened).
Kirby holds Plank together with wit and stamina. She’s on stage for almost the entire two hours the play runs. She’s as active as the dancing ensemble and must process the majority of the dialogue through long silences. She’s the stabilizing force, the plank as it were, on which the ensemble commits their antics. Her work looks exhausting but she plays Potpee as stalwart.
Some audience members compared Plank to Life of Pi (the novel, not that visually gorgeous but poorly edited movie) as they left the theatre. This would be true if Pi weren’t a little boy in a boat, and Potpee had traveled with a tiger. Potpee is a resourceful adult woman with only herself for company. She is the tiger. Comparing two dissimilar personal spiritual journeys because they both happen in the open water is silly.
We elected a thin-skinned Nazi to the office of the President who is turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so.
Congressional “negotiators” released a spending bill that saves the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio until September at which time, the President and his impotent cronies may still cut arts funding. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD
TCG has a list of things you can do to help.
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