by Garry Schrader · August 14, 2014
“What’s more magical than your early twenties?” asks a peppy young woman named Flower. (All quotes, alas, are paraphrases, recalled from memory and notes scribbled in the dark.) And though she goes on to qualify her question, “or your late twenties, or your eighties…or when you’re in the womb…” the play Freaks, by Sam French, does seem to posit the idea of young adulthood as a unique and ephemeral period of grace, when all things, even magical things—time travel, shifting identities, command of the elements—are still possible, or seem so.
Taking place at dusk on a Florida beach that sometimes seems more Tempest than Tampa, Freaks gives us three friends who have gathered for a reunion of sorts. Very close in high school—Carl and Danny refer to themselves as having been the same person—they have not seen each other in four years. Carl has remained in small-town Florida, Danny lives in New York, and Jenny, who dated Danny in high school and now brings along her friend Flower, is in college in the Midwest. Together, they summon the past and chart their future, balancing, as the play does, the mundane and the mythic—or better, finding the mythic in the mundane.
All this could well be cloying, sentimental, or offensively self-aggrandizing, but, as played with winning sensitivity by its very talented cast of four (Sawyer Pierce, Carl Lundstedt, Cara Ronzetti, Colleen Pulawski), Freaks is full of charmed moments that ring poignantly true. It is refreshingly free of irony and, for all its divergence from realism, of the goofball comic-book aesthetic that seems to have taken over the hearts and minds of many of our young playwrights.
The language and style of Freaks is allusive and elliptical—at times, too much so; a little more shape and focus would have only made it stronger. Still, I highly recommend Freaks, which has been well served by its director, Kyle Wilson, and its design team, Bryce Cutler (set), Jackson Gallagher (lights), and Daniel Lundberg (sound). And Mr. French is a playwright to watch.