‘Earth and Sky’ at Silver Spring Stage

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Earth and Sky by Douglas Post brings Dylan Thomas, cops and robbers, murder and true love to at Silver Spring Stage in an uninterrupted two-hour production. Director David Dieudonne’s signature “relationships-are-life” directing style serves the script well and brings out the best in his actors.

Sara Joy Lebowitz and Chris Tully. Photo by Harvey Levine.

Sara Joy Lebowitz and Chris Tully. Photo by Harvey Levine.

Earth and Sky opens with would-be poet and part-time librarian Sara McKeon (Sara Joy Lebowitz) on a phone call with her lover David Ames (Chris Tully), not knowing that it would be her last conversation with him before he is found brutally murdered. Detectives Weber (Kurt Riggs) and Kersnowski (Michael Sigler) suspect that he may have been one of three sought-after kidnappers wanted for murdering their victims. Unable to believe that the man she gave her heart to was a killer, Sara begins her own fearless investigation of the crime. As the detective story moves forward in time, scenes from the love affair take us, Memento-style, back to the moment when Sara and David first met. When the plots converge, Sara finally learns whether or not her heart is smarter than the cops.

Sara Joy Lebowitz is absolutely captivating as the free-spirited and feisty Sara. Her natural style combined with a true understanding her character’s every nuance gives the audience so much to know and, inevitably, love. Lebowitz develops relationships on stage so beautifully that if she had begun reciting love poems to a desk, the audience would believe she was in love with that desk. Luckily she didn’t have to work quite that hard to get chemistry with her co-star Christopher Tully (David Ames).

Tully creates a well-rounded and complex character who is conservative, whimsical, romantic and worried simultaneously. He is so charming and self-effacing; his wonder at Sara’s chronically positive outlook on life is so tender and earnest. These two actors show no reservation in their holding hands, touching and kissing; they bring the entire show to life because we care about them together and apart.

Overall, the supporting cast members add texture to the landscape of the show. As the older and calmer “good cop” to Riggs’ “bad cop,” Michael Sigler gives the audience a master class in BEING a character. He never tries too hard to play the strong and quiet type, he just exists as the donut-eating, unflappable Kersnowski.

Vanessa Terzaghi as Sara’s new co worker, Joyce, charms the pants off of the audience with her sincerity and “oopsie daisy” mannerisms. She is chronically watchable. Andy Le as bartender Billy Hart has great comic timing and got some of the biggest laughs of the night. His dry and sardonic delivery is a great contrast to Lebowitz’s stressed-out Sara.

Juliana Ejedoghaobi delivers an understated and at times chilling Marie, a woman caught up in the nefarious activities surrounding her old boyfriend, David. She may hold the key to the whodunit…or does she?

Marc Rehr and David Dieudonne as the nefarious duo of Carl and Julius are not seen together on stage, but are still clearly a duo; each actor’s attention to detail and quirky signature mannerisms work for themselves and in contrast with each other. These two create fully developed human beings in their short time on stage. Riggs’ Detective Weber is a stereotypical snarky cop with a heart, and delivers some great comic moments. His character doesn’t build from start to finish as much as the others’ do, leaving the audience unsure of his motivations and desires. Passion is the name of the game, and if Riggs heightened his passion, the dynamics between him and Lebowitz would skyrocket.

Bob Benn’s set is minimalist, as is the character, so it fits well with the tone of the play. Simple solid-colored flat panels break up the space and serve to remind the audience of where the characters are supposed to be. I especially liked the use of the red panel for phone calls; it really separated the person on the other line from the action against more muted colors.

Stephen Deming’s Lighting Design, Roger Stone’s Sound Design, and the music are used to great effect during the 27 scene changes. The red and blue lights representing a police car was terrific, and the sounds of the street  and traffic activity fleshed out the setting. Costume Designer Harlene Leahy and Props Designer Sonya Okin did their jobs well and their selections were all well-chosen, especially the prop guns (plurality intended).

I was disappointed with two scenes toward the end of the show (Which I cannot explain without giving away the whodunit) that fell short in intensity, particularly from the characters’ reactions, or lack thereof, to the reveals. Emotions have to reach a peak at the climax so the denouement is like getting under the covers after a long hard day at work; this one felt more like sitting in a nice recliner wishing for a blanket. However, the final scene between Lebowitz and Tully is beautifully staged and lit, and captures the true theme of the story.

Michael Sigler (Kersnowski) and Kurt Riggs (Weber). Photo by Harvey Levine.

Michael Sigler (Kersnowski) and Kurt Riggs (Weber). Photo by Harvey Levine.

The Dylan Thomas book of poetry featured in the show is Sara’s Bible. Poetry is her religion. She says it herself, that she wants to write a poem about how words in a poem don’t compensate for living. She says she has writer’s block and thinks that the problem is that she doesn’t think words are adequate compared to experiences. When she and David meet for the first time, Sara is living the poetry she strives to write.

Earth and Sky had us talking for at least a day after seeing it, because while the action is hyperbolic, the sentiments are real and they make sense. A smart woman does stupid and dangerous things for love. Who can’t relate to that?

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Earth and Sky plays through November 22, 2014 at Silver Spring Stage—10145 Colesville Road in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets call (301) 593-6036, or purchase them online.

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

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