There’s more than a flickering of interesting technique and stimulating acting in the production (U.S.Premiere) of the play Moth by playwright Declan Greene currently playing at Studio Theatre’s 2NDSTAGE. Like the symbolic moth that flickers across the stage, one is drawn to the very relevant and intense theme of student bullying like “a moth to a flame.” The myriad moods of this seventy–five minute piece are fluidly directed by the accomplished actor Tom Story. The focus in this compelling production is on dazzling stage technique (movement, scenic/lighting elements, sound, projections) and two fine performances with one being a virtual knockout of explosive power.
This very compressed piece of writing presents the two characters of the play-a lanky, almost pencil-thin, eccentric loner with a genuinely absurd sense of humor and a penchant for anime and mimicry, Sebastian (David Nate Goldman) and an emo-Wiccan young woman of girth, quick reactions, sarcasm and lacerating humor, named Claryssa (Allie Villarreal). The play revolves around the story of how these two outsiders from conventional norms form bonds that make them alternately co-dependent, abusive of each other, compatriots in subversion and, ultimately, destined for despair.
Author Declan shows these two individuals who are absolutely alone -shut off from objective reality, cut off from authority figures (parents, teachers, etc.) and, ultimately, cut off from knowing how to transcend their current circumstances,-are like raw wounds festering and ready to explode. Villarreal gives a strong, solid performance as the character whose sense of self-survival is only sustained by antagonism and belligerence. Villarreal stands out in her moments of defiance and anger.
Though Villarreal is fine, David Nate Goldman is sublime in every nuance of his portrayal. Goldman’s movement is commanding, he grimaces with ease, his gift for mimicry is amazing and his ironic, quirky sense of humor is marvelous to observe. Goldman somehow manages to bring more dimension to his character than seems to exist in the text–he is totally “in-the-moment” in each scene as he fights off his demons with his wild imagination. He actually manages to make his character endearing even in his despairing moments. His sheer charisma is a promise of even greater stage moments in the future.
We should feel great identification with these characters but it is often difficult because we only see them in extremis with very little context. Of course, an evolved person must and would feel sorry for these taunted, tormented youths but the playwright does not make it easy for the audience to see them as the victims they are. Too often, the harsher aspects of the characters are stressed. Another concern is the fact that these two gifted actors must play every character referred to in the play (such as teacher, fellow students, parent, etc.), and as a result, in such a fast-paced and non-lengthy play, the actors must rush into each character referred to at such a fast pace that it is often hard to properly discern the reference points.
Luckily, the production is solidified with the absolutely superb technical elements of this production. Movement Director Elena Day stages many memorable physical encounters. Scenic and Lighting Designer Colin K. Bills has developed a very stark yet effective set for this intimate space -rows of school lockers are utilized in imaginative and creative ways. The lighting choices are audaciously compelling from the swarms of flickering moths to the pulsing of red light. Projections Designer Mimi d’Autremont adds a special touch. Sound Designer James Bigbee Garver adds atmospheric touches such as the ominous sound of a drone to background cafeteria chatter.
Be sure and catch this Moth before it flies away.
Running Time: 75 minutes, without an intermission.
‘Magic Time!’: ‘Moth’ at The Studio Theatre’s 2ndStage by John Stoltenberg on DCMetroTheaterArts.