by Collin McConnell · June 24, 2014
Indie Artists on New Plays #124 Collin McConnell comments on A Map to Somewhere Else
There is a lot to be excited about in Reina Hardy's A Map to Somewhere Else - there's a colorful cast of characters thrown (mostly) unwittingly into an epic fantasy quest. There's fanciful creatures, asthma attacks, distortion of the time-space continuum, thrilling combat, and plenty more. And yet, I left the theater a bit conflicted - it was all very epic, but it felt as though there was a good deal missing...
The big picture here is enticing: asthmatic Natasha is digging up old receipts from her recently deceased, rich grandfather (who worked in Hollywood) because her cousin Constant (short for Constantine) was his favorite and received all the more tangible inheritance. She's joined by her best friend from college, Emily, and when Emily and Constant meet, cue the music (literally). But then, the mythical characters from Constant and Natasha's childhood (from the stories of their grandfather) are holed up in this old house too, and need to get back to their fantasy realm, and so Constant, Natasha, and Emily get swept up in helping them get back in an epic journey through the history of their childhood fantasies.
But here's the thing: I left not really fulfilled, and wondering why. Slowly, I realized that though I had spent two hours with these characters, I didn't really know anything about them, without any real feelings for them. But I really wanted to. There is a rich world filled with possibility for plots and characters to become interwoven, and it feels as though the play is striving for that level of epic-ness, but it never quite achieves it - the harsher, realer problems (such as someone on suicide watch) are left aside for unrelated quests and a thin love story.
Ultimately, there are excellent and epic elements at work that don't play out as richly as perhaps the play would like them to.
The whole creative team (for the most part), however, is doing quite solid work with what they have. The space that Everyday Inferno Theater Company is occupying is a beautifully reclaimed building, and Ryan Bates' set design lives in the raw space seamlessly (I was thrilled to walk into a space built out of cardboard boxes). It took me a while to notice, but the production also happens to be mounted in the round, that director Anaïs Koivisto manages to maneuver with ease, keeping the action flowing and the space brimming with life. The actors tackle Jon Meyer's combat with a gritty precision that is a delight to watch (and, satisfying the fight choreographer in me, at once effortlessly and unnoticeably safe, keep me delightfully on edge). The actors themselves all turn in rich performances, particilarly Meghann Garmany's addled and unsatisfied Natasha, Case Watson's caring, though strong and sure-footed Emily. Jay William Thomas also turns in an excellent and fiery performance as Constantine (particularly as the other characters he embodies as Constantine), and Sam Ogilvie is adorably committed as the bunny Scatter. Eddy Lee's Mr. Ting takes a little while to warm up into his songs, but is wonderfully enigmatic (though his songs, composed by Matt Board, are unfortunately all terribly slow, dragging on the show a bit, leaving me desiring anything other than another ballad).
The team at Everyday Inferno have a pretty good head on their shoulders, and they hold to their mission well - this is definitely an "adventurous theatrical production" and it does indeed "exceed the conventional limitations of low-budget theater". Hardy's play is certainly worth discovering and developing. But in its current state, the play feels like it is in the midst of a workshop, and would greatly benefit from much further development. I, for one, certainly hope it continues to develop.