90% fantastic


While Chasing the Fantastic…


Written By Derek Ahonen

Directed by David Levy-Horton

The Amoralists Theatre Company (http://www.myspace.com/138145482)

The Kraine Theatre, 85 East 4th Street

Equity Showcase (closed June 10, 2007)

Reviewed by Judd Hollander


Playwright Derek Ahonen's takes the subjects of terrorism, trust, infidelity and responsibility and uses them as the building blocks for his fascinating (and quite topical) While Chasing the Fantastic… At its heart the work is a story of three very different individuals whose lives become emotionally and physically intertwined with all the pain, anguish and joy that can bring. Unfortunately, the play fatally stumbles about three-quarters of the way through and never recovers. Which is a real shame, because up to that point the work was fascinating indeed.


Recently married couple Geneva (Rebecca Schall) and Kent (Matthew Pilleci) decide to take in a roommate to ease their financial straits. After a series of interviews, they settle on a writer of mid-East descent named Venus (Ahonen) who immediately charms Geneva. While Kent, who's something of a loud-mouthed bigot, isn't that impressed, the fact that Venus is willing to pay six months rent in advance quickly clinches the deal. But while working on his latest epic (a play with seven acts), Venus is haunted strange dreams of two young people (a man and woman) who stare at him unblinking and unspeaking.


At the same time, a parallel storyline is unfolding, featuring the two young people in question. They’re a brother and sister who have adopted the names Charity (Ambrosine Lara Falck) and Justice (Nick Lawson). Coming from what appears to be a lower-middle class American family they seem to have fallen under the spell of a cult-like group not averse to using violent methods to obtain their goals. (The leader is a figure known as Aqualung, played with a mesmerizing and sinister air by Barry Sacker). These two stories start to become one when Kent, who suspects Geneva and Venus of having an affair, reads the nearly completed play and becomes convinced it's actually a blueprint for a terrorist act, which includes a suicide bombing. This leads to a powerful (and brilliantly executed) confrontation scene between Kent and Venus, with Gina caught in the middle.


Unfortunately, it's just after this scene the show goes off the rails, with a final half hour or so of rhetoric and dialogue most of which is simply not needed. Also with no explanation, one character is suddenly given a much harder and cynical edge; so much so it no longer seems like the same person. Additionally, the various speeches given by the intended target (Kate Adams) of Charity and Justice could easily be cut as they do nothing to advance the story or plot. An explanation is given for the deliberately stilted dialogue, but it feels like almost an afterthought. (It would have been much better to have her stand in silence and wait for what was to happen then to hear her ramble on about basically nothing.) As a result, the final ending, when it comes, happens with a whimper instead of a loud roar.


Before the show basically collapses, it makes for an engrossing experience. Pilleci is wonderful as the angry Kent, who slowly transforms from little more than a tired old stereotype in act one to someone with pain, passion and pride in himself. So much so that in the climatic face off between him and Venus, one is not completely sure who to root for. Schall is excellent as Geneva, a woman in an unhappy marriage who comes alive when she sees Venus. The chemistry and sexual tension between the two is immediately evident and the two actors play these scenes with just the right air of wariness, need and desire. Ahonen's Venus is the most incomplete of the three major characters, with the persona cloaked in mystery and ambiguity. But there's enough pain and hidden ghosts to make him interesting - though he works better in his scenes with Geneva and Kent then when alone with his demons.


The segments with Charity and Justice are good in the context of the story, but the characters aren’t nearly as well-defined as they should be, which lessens their emotional impact. Still, their situation is intriguing and more of their back story (at least in terms of Venus' play) would have been nice to see. David Levy Horton's direction is quite strong throughout, with him having a firm grasp of the material, bringing out the best in the cast and the script (despite its missteps).


The sets and costumes in the show (both uncredited in the program) were adequate, as was Keecia Buster's lighting and Bart Lucas's sound design.


Also in the cast is Nick Lawson.


Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Sets: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

Copyright 2007 Judd Hollander

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