A Frontier, as Told by the Frontier is not your average ride at the local amusement park, but it is certainly a piece of theatre that holds the mirror right up to the way of the American life for us to look at and question.
Playwright Jason Gray Platt’s bold text made its worldwide debut as the third full length play to be a part of this year’s Source Festival. The story began in 2009 as a part of something he was working on for his thesis for his MFA at Columbia. He wanted to artfully portray the struggle that was nationally felt at this time financially and morally. This tale of four kids who live in an abandoned theme park world is literally crumbling around them, and they too are searching to find out what is left for them to believe in.
Feola “Fox” (Maggie Erwin) leads the group as the cunning rebel whose is wise, but is the most willing to break out of the comfort zone of the group. She brought an unswayable amount of energy to the role and brings a great drive to the overall show. The four adolescents perform the 200 year-old myths of their people every day – all day – teaching the lessons of life. Since the war escalated and more people have left the theme park – they are the only four left to keep the stories and each other alive. They are left under the guidance of Nafts (Scott McCormick) who tries to keep them sharp and moral high in hope of a time when life returns back to the way it was before the war. McCormick gives a fragile performance as he tries to carry the weight of the group on his shoulders until it all becomes too much even for him as the elder of the group.
The rest of the cast is equally as talented in their efforts of playing children with a unique childlike vulnerability of their own just searching for something to hold onto everything seems to be changing yet remaining stagnant at the same time. Barker “Bear” (Kyle Encinas) plays the most loveable character as he is not the brightest of the group but certainly has the biggest heart. He is searching for the meaning of love and opens himself up to his “love” in one of the more tender moments of the show. Miller “Mouse” (Ryan Sellers) is not in search for love, but is in search for his family who left him at the park many years ago. He hopes they will come back for him one day soon, and even though he is the oldest of the characters he is the most fragile and affected by their way of life. He so desperately want to be a part of a “normal” family. Seller does the best job of connecting his mythical character, Mouse, to his human character “Miller”- he is curious about what his life would be life outside park, but so afraid of the reality of the truth. Lastly, but certainly not least, the smallest member of group Orsay “Owl” (Kita Grayson) plays the sharp- minded and tongued owl who thinks she knows all there is to know, yet she can never seem to find a solution to keep Nafts and the group happy as the show goes on. Grayson did a beautiful job building her frustration as the story progressed, but still always showing how confident she was that she would bring the group to her side.
The lighting and sets by Brian Allard and Deb Sivigny were stunning and brought you right into this broken down amusement park. It was like being on a carousel ride with the bright colored incandescent light bulbs lighting the ride, or the set, which was a simple wire fence that held many old maps and articles and photos of years that had symbolically and literally blown through this park. It was simple, but fit perfectly with the text and the wonderful staging of the play by Director Lee Liebeskind.
A Frontier is another ‘not-to-be-missed’ production in the Source Festival. It is a touching show with plot twists that will make you gasp.
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.
A Frontier, as Told by the Frontier plays tonight, June 20th, 27th, and 30th at 8 PM, and on June 23rd at 3 PM at Source Festival at Source Theatre – 1835 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. Purchase tickets online.