Pluto By Steve Yockey
Directed by Mark Routhier
Starring Suzanne O’Donnell and Chris Metz
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre
Ever since Jean-Paul Sartre left the stage door to the underworld open, plays about the after death experience have been endemic. Beginning writers adore them but rarely execute them well enough to enter the popular corpus of drama. “Pluto” handles the task better than most but still suffers from one main issue: while you’d like one last heart-to-heart with your expired loved ones, that just ain’t way the universe is built.
Tonight we meet Elizabeth Miller (O’Donnell), she’s a single mom struggling to get her basement dwelling son Baily (Metz) through Community College. He hasn’t talked to anyone since a high school counseling session and even his childhood playmate Maxine (Jillian Gizzi) abandons him – she got hot, he got cooties. As they fuss over pop tarts and the difficulties of an introductory astronomy survey class, the clock is curiously stuck and there seems to be a cherry tree hanging from the ceiling. If that’s not enough symbolism the three headed dog Cerberus (played by the mono-skulled Heather Leonardi) guards the refrigerator and offers sage advice. She’s not so much Man’s Best Friend as the author’s voice as she calmly explains things to the cast only to froth random bits of orbital mechanics when the refrigerator starts vibrating. We guess a tragedy has occurred, the perpetrator is quickly implied and things perk up when Death (John Cannon) appears from the refrigerator in a diving suit. It’s surrealism with a tender heart that resolves everything yet leaves everything hanging unresolved.
The cast does the only thing possible; they accept the story and charge forward giving us an excellent presentation. O’Donnell has the harried mother role down pat, she cares and berates and does the best she can. Mr. Metz mopes around grousing about how hard his curriculum is and if he had only been quicker he could have been cramming for “Rocks for Jocks” instead. Metz reminds me of petulant Dave Thomas, the world’s not his fault but he’s acting like he’s bravely carrying on with the resolve that admits failure is always an option. Ms. Leonardi has relatively little to do, although she’s on stage as the audience enters she’s not posed, just paused. Things perk up enormously when Mr. Connon enters in his diving suit, the need for such a clumsy mode of fashion in the afterworld is not explained and it feels like a sight gag set out to relieve the tension of the main story. But he was reasonable and likeable and explained what we has already guessed, if he’s your guide to the afterworld things could be Judeo Christian worse. This is an odd story executed with the usual Shakes panache, but it’s a story that will challenge your suspension of disbelief and give you plenty to debate on the way home.
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