A Risky Quest to Find a Lover’s Killer: ‘Earth and Sky’ at Siver Spring Stage by Lennie Magida

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They may have been an unlikely couple: poet/librarian Sara McKeon and upscale restaurateur David Ames. But they met, fell quickly in love, and had 10 wonderful weeks together.

Kurt Riggs (Weber) and Sara Joy Lebowitz (Sara).
Kurt Riggs (Weber) and Sara Joy Lebowitz (Sara).

Then, one summer morning, David is found dead in a seedy Chicago neighborhood, and Sara is engulfed by three vast emotions: Grief over David’s death. Shock and disbelief at suggestions by the police—and other characters—that David may have been involved in several illicit activities including kidnapping, rape and murder. And determination to find out the truth.

Silver Spring Stage will take audiences through the twists and turns of this story as it presents Earth and Sky by Douglas Post. Directed by David Dieudonne, the show—quite fittingly–opens Halloween night, this Friday, and runs weekends through November 22, 2014.

Earth and Sky follows Sara’s risky quest, interweaving it with scenes that trace Sara and David’s relationship back to the moment they met. This nonlinear approach gives the story its pulse—and gives audiences a chance to develop their own ideas about David and some of the other characters. It also presents an engrossing acting assignment: Sara Joy Lebowitz, who plays Sara—and is in every scene of the play but one—says she “was intrigued by the challenge of playing a character who goes through so many different emotions but not necessarily in chronological order.”

Kurt Riggs (Weber) and Sara Joy Lebowitz (Sara).
Kurt Riggs (Weber) and Sara Joy Lebowitz (Sara).

The New York Times described Earth and Sky as “film noir on stage.” Dieudonne refines that idea, saying that for the Silver Spring Stage production “the designers and I have tried to respect the classic noir genre but have leaned a lot more toward a neo-noir type feel—a lot edgier, harsher.”

So is Earth and Sky primarily a thriller? Dieudonne says no: “It’s less a murder mystery than it is a story about someone trying to find the truth about a relationship. It definitely has its thrilling moments, but ultimately we care more about Sara’s journey.”

Sara embarks on that journey despite her total lack of relevant experience, and she fiercely continues it despite multiple unsettling encounters. A number of those are with lead detective H.E. Weber, and they are fraught with tension of various kinds. Kurt Riggs, who plays Weber, says the detective “is definitely not straight-laced—but is there something more to that than meets the eye?” It’s a question that could be asked about much of what goes on in Earth and Sky.

What keeps motivating Sara through all of this? Love, determination, belief in the truth, and the fact, as Lebowitz says, that Sara is “an optimist—neither fearless nor foolish, but naïve. That naiveté places her in some dangerous situations.”

Her optimism is an important thread in Earth and Sky, according to Christopher Tully, who plays David. “Nobody really knows everything about the people in their lives, but without an optimistic view of the people we love, our lives would be pretty unbearable,” he says.

Whether in scenes of optimism and happiness or mystery and tension, Earth and Sky is an “up close” kind of play, a perfect fit for the intimacy of Silver Spring Stage. “There’s a lot of emotion in this piece, and the venue provides a closeness that will allow the audience to really feel what these characters are experiencing,” says Riggs.

As for what exactly they’re experiencing…and who did what…you’ll just have to see for yourself.

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Silver Spring Stage’s production of Earth and Sky plays weekends from October 31-November 22, 2014. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., plus Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on November 9 and 16. Regular ticket price is $20, but $10 tickets are available for select performances on Goldstar. There is also a Pay-What-You-Can preview on Thursday, September 18, at 8 p.m.

The Stage is located in the Woodmoor Shopping Center – 10145 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD. The opening night performance will be followed by a reception to which all audience members are invited.