Dirt Review - Quantum Mechanics and Death

Are there ever-expanding waves in the cosmos surrounding each death? DIRT attempts to dig into that question through the intertwined lives of five people. With a quick nod at a variety of other issues - chemical pollution, human ecology, the mother/daughter relationship, sexual connections, and even quantum mechanics - DIRT explores the unexpected and unexplained death of Harper (Mandy Levin) as one piece of the puzzle in the lives of its characters.

Mandy Levin and Maia Danziger - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

 

Harper’s complex relationship with boyfriend Matt (Mark McClain Wilson) is central to the question of her future goals (when she really has no future). How will Matt deal with the death of a woman with whom he was distantly close? And what effect will Harper’s death have on her mother May (Maia Danziger) with whom she also appeared to have a distantly close relationship? Just how close is close?

 

Finally, what of peripheral individuals like waitress Elle (Ryan Walsh), who met Harper once? Or even more peripheral contacts like Guy (Jack Krizmanich), who is Elle’s ex-addict friend who now performs Reiki technique and ponders the world.

 

Mark McClain Wilson and Mandy Levin - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

DIRT unfolds like an opera, beginning with solos which segue into duets and trios - a back and forth melody ultimately fading away into limitless infinity. Director Ann Bronston choreographs this dance of life with a deft hand. She manages to pull multiple brief moments of time into a celebration of life and death and makes it look effortless. She certainly achieves her twin goals - to create more questions than answers and to trigger discussions after the play ends. Playwright Bryony Lavery has tapped and nudged the audience, sometimes with humor and sometimes with pathos. DIRT feels like what it is meant to be – an edgy contemplation of the cosmos and our place in it. Many questions lie beneath the surface.

 

Ryan Walsh and Jack Krizmanich - Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Hillary Bauman’s scenic design and Norman Scott’s lighting and set design are simple and clean, clearly consistent with a play of ideas where different locations on this earth are irrelevant. The entire production team works to keep outer stimuli from interrupting inner thoughts and considerations. The occasional chuckle offers a lighter touch where the play could easily have turned too dark very quickly. Spoiler alert: this is an intellectual play which taps into multiple aspects of life - and death. Character development is paramount, and these skilled actors hit every beat to keep the audience engrossed in the lives of these characters. Ninety minutes, with no intermissions, seems about right for allowing audiences to consider these big ideas and contemplate the fragility of life. When the play seems slow, it may be to give the audience time to think about and digest what these concepts mean to each of us.

 

DIRT runs through April 17, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. DIRT is produced by Rogue Machine in association with SRS Productions at the Raven Playhouse, located at 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $25.  For reservations, call 800-838-3006 or go online at http://dirt.bpt.me or www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

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