Brainstorm 3: Mind the Gap
At Load of Fun, 120 W. NORTH AVE., through June 17
More at weekly.citypaper.com
Glass Mind Theatre’s current production is disjointed by design. Sure, it’s right there in the title: Mind the Gap. But it’s also there in its fabric, its very methodology. Mind the Gap is the third volume of Glass Mind’s Brainstorm series, in which playwrights compose short works around a given idea—in this case a journey. In keeping with the theme—“Arrivals and Departures”—of the theater’s second season, of which this is the final show, the company asked its audience members and various social media followers to submit locations, and then put two playwrights together, one to write the entrance into one place, the other the exit from another. So, yes, disjointed.
It’s a cool idea, but one that did not quite succeed in making the journey from page to stage the night we viewed it. Last year’s show, Mixtape, featured short pieces based on songs, to similar effect (“Baltimore Mixtape,” Stage, May 25, 2011). Individually, the plays were too abstract and lacked clarity; while providing a jumping-off point for the writers, as a whole the theme did little to tie the evening together for the audience.
This is not to say it is a wholly unenjoyable evening. It’s just. . . a little rough. The show opens with “Logan’s Ghosts,” which was written by Glass Mind’s own Peter Blaine and Sarah Weissman and depicts a journey from a treehouse to the back of a piece of paper. The resulting plot is a rather eloquent interpretation of this adventure: Jerry (Mike Smith), Mia (Sarah Eberhardt), and Callie (Rachel Holmes) gather in a treehouse, where they spent much of their childhood, after the death of their friend Logan, whose ghost (J Hargrove) hangs around listening as the three reminisce. When they decide it’s time to get up and go, Logan becomes so emotional that he knocks a book off a table, startling his friends and leading them to discover the lists of lifetime goals they wrote 10 years before, after graduating from high school. Logan tries to trap his friends in the back of his own list, a place where they can live forever in dreams of things to come instead of the real world of disappointments and things left unfinished. It’s a bit trite, and feels, oddly, thrown together—it was hard to tell if the characters talking over each other was intentional, for example—but I won’t lie: I cried.
Despite its ghost and afterlife musings, “Logan’s Ghosts” is perhaps the piece most deeply rooted in reality, followed closely by “Last Stop: F-Town,” in which Annabelle (Jasmine Andersen), frustrated by her husband Richardson’s (Vince Constantino) lack of interest in the hand-made rug she wishes to buy as a souvenir before they leave Morocco, asks shopkeeper Amal (Brian Horshaw) for a magic carpet. Together they ride the carpet to Funkytown, where Annabelle is greeted by all of her favorite things: cosmopolitans with real Cointreau, not Triple Sec; woolly green socks; and, most preciously, a loosie—that single cigarette savored on social occasions. But what she really wants is a baby, and Funkytown also demands that Annabelle choose between her adult desire and her more childish indulgences.
The final play in the first half, “The Place Where Dinosaurs Are Kept,” makes a bold attack on religion, while also featuring one character of uncertain gender and sexuality and another with some kind of mental and/or physical disability. M/S (Mike Smith), aka Martha/Stewart, works in a wig shop and presents him/herself as Martha or Stewart, depending on the day. In this piece, he’s Martha, and he sells some wigs to a couple before closing down shop early to order pizza and work on a dinosaur diorama with his brother Manny (Brian Horshaw). It’s a lot for a 20-minute short to address, and playwrights Joe Dennison and Susan M. McCarty do a decent job, though some elements feel a bit forced—Martha and Manny come across as too old to be building a dinosaur diorama, for example, and so the action feels like little more than a mechanism to reach “the place where the dinosaurs are kept” and to harp on fundamentalists, like Martha and Manny’s mother, who believe the dinosaurs never existed and the Earth is 6,000 years old.
The second half of the performance features two shorts that are, if anything, more inscrutable. “Panacea” depicts a journey from “the world between the worlds” to “The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí,” a heady challenge that meets with a plot involving the overworked secretary (Andersen) of a modern man (Hargrove) and a swirling mix of memories and present moments that include a sea monster, two children, and various otherworldly characters. It’s followed by “One End of the Earth,” which takes viewers from “The Ends of the Earth” to “Planned Parenthood,” and features Hansl (Smith) and Gretl (Rachel Holmes) as two modern teens travelling the world after their stepmom kicks them out of their New Jersey home. No idea what’s supposed to be going on here, but Michelle Bland as the Statue of Liberty is the best performance of the evening, all sassy and commanding as she rips the Earth in two and kinda/sorta narrates some of the action.
In fact, the performances are, overall, the best part. Glass Mind’s very mission is “exploring the boundaries of the theatrical experience through interactive concepts,” and with anything experimental—and amateur—slip-ups are bound to happen. But the troupe, as always, is enthusiastic, innovative, and clearly having fun. There are plenty of holes, but try not to pay them any mind.