It's been said that everyone deals with grief in their own way. TheSpyAnts' latest production at the Lillian Theatre delivers a healthy dose of that adage for a full uninterrupted 90 minutes. Stories of lost and languishing life unfold and overlaps onto themselves, entwining and pulling at the living in EM Lewis' 'Infinite Black Suitcase'.
The play is an anthology of stories, all unique in their perspective of impending or sudden death. Young Kal Kalinski (Linc Hand) is the face of utter denial as he repeatedly tries to extract a reasonable explanation of a recent family death from Stan Kalinski (Ken Arquelio). Meanwhile Stan is trying to ward off Kal's barrage of questions long enough to fit a proper black dress onto his catatonic sister Janie (Marina Mouhibian). He has no time for sorrow; he has to get everyone to the funeral on time. He's the one that keeps going even when everyone else stalls.
Dan Hanlon's (Eric Bunton) withering figure makes his slow and agonizing trek to his hospital bed even as the audience continues to fill the theater, well before curtain. Having arrived at acceptance, Dan lies patiently in wait until death comes for him. Hooked up to an IV drip, he waits for death in the company of the witty, plant toting, affectionate and consoling Stephen (Jerry Pappas). Throughout the show, they play out a bittersweet goodbye that is taking too long for each of them.
Somewhere in the same hospital, Katie Barnes (Darcy Halsey) tries to bring her ex, Joe (Ryan Churchill) and new husband Tony (Kim Estes) to a truce regarding her children before she dies. There is the sense that the two men have always been at each other, and even Katie's approaching death is not enough to get the two to see beyond their petty bickering. Anything to avoid talking about the fact that she's dying.
Perhaps my favorite segment was between Father Sebastian (Bill J. Stevens) and the non-Catholic Frank (Hal Perry) who finds his way into a confessional that fateful afternoon. The priest's indulgence of the inebriated lost sheep is quite funny. When it is revealed that Frank feels guilt over the recent suicide of his father, the priest's kindness is heartwarming.
TheSpyAnts Company takes an introspective piece about death and dying and blends in a great balance of humanity and humor. The production, directed by Danny Parker-Lopes, shuffles the 17-member ensemble through space and storylines with ease. The screenplay keeps the points of view rotating, a key element that allows the play to avoid being overly sentimental or dark. It explores the rip effect death can cause in one's personal well of guilt, that often exists long before any loss is experienced. Moreover, it examines our innate need to fill that loss of life with something: sex, alcohol, a reason.
'Infinite Black Suitcase' runs now through May 06, 2007
Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm, Sundays @ 7pm at:
1076 Lillian Way
Hollywood, CA 90038
For more information visit: http://www.plays411.com/newsite/show/play_info.asp
Photos by Jeff Ellington
Official website: http://www.thespyants.com/