Review by Edmond Malin
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity continues to present plays that raise awareness about global issues. I caught the final, comic, moving performance of “…waiting” by Mark Levy, directed by Kristen Keim. This production is in support of The Samaritans of New York, a suicide prevention organization.
As the story opens, Mark Levy is waiting for an eight-foot bong, which will have a central role in the play. Apparently, the bong they had is now broken, and the cast and director are scouring the Lower East Side for a replacement. Mark’s earnest delivery as he outlines a 24-hour high from a pot brownie, spent working at Trader Joe’s, a place where all employees are high, is a great introduction to the way he benevolently interferes with the audience throughout the next hour. It’s an exciting journey through interconnected stories. If everything is so interconnected, why go to the theater and keep yourself to yourself?
Soon after, Julia Yarwood staggers from the front row declaring that her water broke. With help from director Kristen Keim, she soon gives birth to…a new play. From there, Kayla Mason and Tiara Francis are clubbing in New York newly yuppified Meat Packing District and luckily gain entrance to Club Redacted. On the outside, the thumping beat turns out to be the noise of the air conditioner. On the inside, a small number of solipsistic dancers groove in silence. Oh, the vanity. Randomly, Michael Mena starts telling the ladies about a wind-powered hotel he witnessed on a trip to Shanghai. That’s some “Avatar” shit, harnessing wind energy.
New Yorkers may be familiar with desperately hunting for a place to pee. Julia Yarwood runs into a premium organic coffee establishment and has to keep her full bladder in check until she has heard Kat Moreno give her the entire mission statement.
Tiara Francis is seen writing a letter to her boyfriend, who took her to Bimini, in the Bahamas, and did not propose to her. The boyfriend, Xavier Rodney, then is seen reading the letter. His nerd brain rejoices that the couple was able to meet Jimmy Buffet and to walk in the steps of Hemingway. He sense that his girlfriend has just broken up with him, which is a shame because he has been carrying an engagement ring around in his pocket for months. Suddenly emboldened, he seeks out a beautiful woman in the front row (at our show, this was the lucky Lauren Arneson) and asks her to be his wife.
Two police officers, Michael Mena and Xavier Rodney, are watching a criminal in what is known as a stake-out. After an unexpected voice-over, we find we are in an A-! Steak Sauce commercial.
Mark Levy stages his eight-foot bong scene, by channeling the acting skills of Kat Moreno, who stands on a chair and conjures ganja out of thin air.
Aqua World Ocean Universe is a theme park which has high standards and makes prospective employees take a drug test. Amber Bloom from HR is looking pretty high. She tells the new cohort of sea-lion feeders that they are allowed to smoke pot but other drugs are not OK unless they come from the earth. Tiara Francis, the daughter of a minister, declares she will not smoke the devil’s oregano and quits. The remaining nereids ponder what is the best animal to pet while high.
An F train is being held in the station, mainly because it has stuck a human being, whose body will be severed if the train starts moving again. On this train, a romantic evening is almost over. Michael Mena tries to get close to Kayla Mason, who reminds him he can’t call her baby if it’s only their second date. Only the overwhelming tragedy happening on the tracks can make them notice each other. Also, the coffeehouse crowd from earlier are reunited on the train, and find a more genuine connection.
A great tiger-tamer is backstage trying to get an escaped animal back into his cage. Lovely hosts Sarah Marie Degni and Julia Yarwood, the assistants and lovers of the soon-to be deceased Beastmaster, urge the audience to evacuate. A disgruntled spectator, Xavier Rodney, tells the fleeing carneys that this show is all he has in life, and needs to see the animals. He does, backstage, and they eat him alive. Kat Moreno sticks her head out of a magic trick box to let us know she has been left behind in the confusion.
Like a dream, “…waiting” brings us into many stories of people who think they know what they’re waiting for. Sometimes, they get something much more useful in the long run. Director Kristen Keim does an amazing job of threading together these ultimately related tales. Hats off to the cast, whose continuing surprise and bewilderment echo many situations you will find in New York.