‘Condo Condo Condoland’ at EMP Collective by Amanda Gunther

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FOUR STARS
Urban centricity – urban living being so many things to so many people. The universe is cold and dark and all you can count on in this world is yourself; self- reliance for your own happiness, depend on no one else. Conflicting viewpoints of life in a war-torn apocalyptic society that come to life as EMP Collective presents the world premier of Liz Maestri’s Condo Condo Condoland. Directed by Maggie Villegas, this bizarre look at life in a perfect community provides an introspective glance into how life isn’t always as perfect as it seems. Most definitely an edgy new performance piece this production fits well within the limitless bounds of EMP’s mode of operations.

Dan (David Mitchell) and Jillian (Carly J Bales). Photo by Nick Clifford Simko.

Dan (David Mitchell) and Jillian (Carly J Bales). Photo by Nick Clifford Simko.

Playwright Liz Maestri explores the dysfunction of relationships, obsessions, and ideal living in her new work. How a seemingly perfect couple with ordinary lives living inside a condo together function in their daily routine. But nothing is ever as simple as it seems when tensions erupt from beneath the surface of their picture perfect life. She wants a baby he’s obsessed with the TV and outside — a world unknown. The book itself is a bit disjointed and there are moments of interpretive physical action that don’t necessarily synch up with what’s been happening on the stage, but for the most part this disconnect helps craft the story into the peculiar exploration that it is.

Sound Designer Todd Mion helps encapsulate the unusual reality with his aural designs. Providing funky music for out-of-place flashback style moments of time passage, Mion’s designs help tangle the peculiar feelings of surreality into the production. And his sound effects when it comes to the static of the television and the chaos outside are particularly accurate in a haunting fashion.

Scenic Designer Andrea Crews accents the interior of the stark white condo with vibrant honey-yellow wall patterns and accoutrements. This chipper and sprightly color gives the audience a false sense of happiness and security, making the perfect little lives of these two seemingly normal people appear that much more normal, when in reality this harsh and almost garish color really reflects the turmoil and grotesque nature of their respective obsessions; she with her need to be pregnant and he with the television.

The truly impressive work comes from the videography, designed by Rachel Dwiggins. There are a series of very surreal moments that take place throughout the production featuring this erratic display of images; mostly eyeballs, faces, and tongues, blended seamlessly into the static and snow of the television screen. Dwiggins crafts truly haunting sequences that draw you into them like a moth flying toward a very hot and bright flame. There are serene and yet dangerous, a siren’s cry of images that splash through the snowy static and enchant you while slowly making your eyeballs bleed.

Accompanying these bizarre images is the voiceover work of Nichole Chaney. Acting as the omnipresent voice that identifies herself as “The Eyes of the World” she is heard only by Danile, and delivers a pleasant sultry sound that matches the mood of the video projections. Watch the screen closely, you might just be amazed at what you really see.

The acting in this production is what grounds it in semi-reality. With only three performers it gives the audience a chance to truly focus on Director Maggie Villegas’ artistic vision and interpretation of the play. Daniel (David Mitchell) and Jillian (Carly J. Bales) have a rich tempestuous relationship that is largely stifled by Daniel’s inability to connect to anything but the television. Mitchell’s performance radiates apathy that could outshine the sun if he so chose, which creates a perfect catalyst for Bales. The pair spark and spar at one another with a vehemence, driven largely by Bales, until Mitchell joins the fight properly, causing vocal and verbal explosions to rival those heard outside the windows.

The interloper, the outsider, Joshua Buursma throws a wrench into the perfect lifestyle occurring inside the condo. Rugged and authoritative he brings a severe contrasting presence to the stage, tempered with an affectionate side toward Bales’ character. But as the play progresses he is stripped away to reveal that he too is consumed by obsessions of a different nature and is trapped in the same vicious cycle as the others.

Jillian (Carly J Bales) and Dan (David Mitchell). Photo by Nick Clifford Simko.

Jillian (Carly J Bales) and Dan (David Mitchell). Photo by Nick Clifford Simko.

Condo Condo Condoland is a truly unique work.

Running Time: Approximately one hour and 10 minutes, with no intermission.

Condo Condo Condoland plays through May 11, 2013 at EMP Collective – 307 West Baltimore Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call (410) 244-0785, or purchase them online.

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