By Paula Vogel
Directed by Julia Listengarten
Starring Shanel Sparr and Alex Blair
Theatre UCF, Orlando FL
Anna (Sparr) and her brother Carl (Blair) live in a mixed up universe. He’s dying of a mysterious disease, she fears foreign travel and foreign language. Carl has no such qualms, he speaks 6 languages and can likely fake a dozen more, but neither of them has been overseas. In fact the farthest they go is cross county to Baltimore, hoping the medicos at Johns Hopkins might offer a miracle cure. But there are no miracles in the real world or on this stage. The best they can do is offer Carl a Stage One Trial: that’s where they verify new drugs don’t kill you any faster than doing nothing. But in the mind of writer Vogel the roles reverse – Anna is the patient, and Alex pops for a leisurely trip through Europe ending in a search for a miracle cure for her in Vienna. Along the way Anna imagines herself worldly and sexy and while this posited ailment might kill her body, it leaves her libido alone. This is sexual surrealism, made modern.
While Ms. Sparr is flirty and bold, Mr. Blair is equally as interesting if not as interested in sex. She sleeps with bellhops as he checks out the museums. It’s implied she may have to consume her own bodily excretions to get a cure, but this is really a minor inconvenience and a long, healthy life is worth a swig of pee. The pair forms a strong dynamic bond and they do seem tied together by both genetics and years of shared holidays. Supporting their whirlwind tour is the versatile “3rd Man ” (Ryan Sutter.) He plays most of the other speaking parts ranging from the standoffish doctor in Baltimore to the creepy doctor in Vienna. Then there’s a crew of stage hands, they mostly dress in scrubs and push the stage around. All their action focuses on a wonderful round structure with a ramp and stairs and colorful lights that fills in as a train and an examining room and the top of a building shrouded in mystery. It’s a minimal set with maximum impact.
While the audience is never certain about the action on stage, it does bond with the confusion and loss that Anna feels. Sudden death shocks, and the long decline of an elder drags, but the knowledge of the pending and irreversible loss of a sibling tears one apart. How many ways can we analyze such a death? There’s the 5 (or 6) stages of Kübler-Ross, the secret hope it’s all a clerical error in some office, and the confusion of “why is this happening, and what did I do to deserve it?” None of these leads to an answer, but all must be considered prior to that last curtain call. This is an intriguing if surreal look at the endgame of life, and if you haven’t been there yet, you will be eventually.
For more information on Theatre UCF visit http://www.theatre.ucf.edu