HOLLYWOOD, CA— Somewhere in the not-so-distant future there exists a world where loved ones separated by thousands of miles need only make a telephone call on a high-tech video conferencing slash teleportation device to become reunited. The system has not yet been perfected though, as plastic must be used to help conduct trans-message images, while leather tends to obstruct, or even “hang up” the image.
In this future, cults have been taken to a new level, and followers of Reverend Tsing Sure Sure know that there is every possibility that they may one day end up inhabiting bodies that aren’t their own.
This is the world in which Nathan Beagle (currently inhabiting his deceased grandfather’s body) and his grandmother Beatrice (encased in a young Japanese girl’s body) exist. Sure there are a few icky sexual overtones between Nathan and his grandmother, while he appreciates her new form, and she tries to convince the “body” of her dead husband to cast off the grandson so they can be reunited. But all of that can be attributed to Reverend Tsing Sure Sure’s master plan of helping people burst through their bodily limitations. Or else it could be a by-product of “body intoxication” a condition that occurs with the consumption of too much alcohol or caffeine, or not enough juice or water.
Playwright Nick Starr’s imagination takes flight in his second play “Slow Boat,’ which explores issues of identity, relationships, spirituality and
Set entirely in
China, (with the occasional appearance of phone call characters from the U.S.), the play follows Nathan and his grandmother as they go in search of Reverend
Using each performer’s talents to the fullest, the play feels much larger than one of just five cast members. Truly a character in its own right and absolutely worth mentioning is the remarkable stage setting, and in particular the lighting effects used to impart the spiritual, far eastern flavor. The play opens with the meditative words of Reverend
Tsing, while against a deep red background silhouettes of the cast perform a Falun Gong-type of meditative martial arts.
Anthony Tedesco does a very convincing job of playing Nathan, a young man in search of himself, while dealing with a break-up, a tense relationship with his father, and the concerns that he isn’t understood. We don’t always understand Nathan, or what exactly he is looking for, but thanks to
Tedesco, we never stop being on Nathan’s side.
Another standout performance is that of Alyssa Lobit in the role of grandmother Beatrice. Although Beatrice is of the opinion that “Changing bodies like this is not for Jewish people,” she
grapples with the conflict of not wanting to give up her young, new form. In between bouts of body intoxication, moments of desperate loneliness for her deceased husband, and fear of repercussions as to what her future may hold, Lobit’s character has the greatest range in the show, and Lobit handles the transitions admirably.
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Rounding out the cast are Paul Schackman as Nathan’s never-going-to-quite-get-it-right, but-going-to-go-down-trying father, Tanya Giang as Linda, Nathan’s ex, who remains cute, even after we’ve heard her one-line voice mail message for the third time; and Allen Liu who works his way through a number of characters quite effortlessly. In particular Liu’s rendition of a smarmy concierge, and a slightly psychotic British-English-speaking, but American-English mocking police inspector are his strongest characters.
In general, Slow Boat is a meditative journey that leaves room for the audience to explore their own perceptions of future, family and religion. The action is heavily internal, and refreshingly devoid of stereotypical Asian martial arts sequences and broken English dialogue. What the play does is provoke thought, and just like the song on which it was based, it lingers, long after the last line has been spoken. --
Vanishing Points West
Los Angeles Repertory Theatre
through August 14