Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Silverland - May 16, 2007

I'm not sure if I wanted to laugh or cry after seeing Silverland. Both responses seemed appropriate which seems altogether fitting. In his tremendous debut play Benjamin Davis displays a deft turn of phrase, rhythms reminiscent of of everything from The Greeks to Shakespeare to Sam Shepard's early work - and yes, it all works! As a first piece this is ambitious in its scope and in the hands of director Di Trevis and 6 talented actors it is a harrowing warning on global warming, and an exploration of the human desire for companionship.

The year is 2011, the starting place a rave outside London. Six characters meet and their stories unfold over the course of a year - the final year 2012. The year the world ends, the Mayans stopped their calendar there, global warming is hitting its peak, the world is in the throes of a fresh water drought and looking towards space for new resources and in the midst of all this: we dance!

There is a wonderful blend of poetic and vernacular language here. When Mikey (Bradley Taylor) the more street-savvy of the two young ravers, quotes "He who binds to himself a joy, Does the winged life destroy; But he who kisses the joy as it flies, Lives in eternity’s sun rise" his pal Dario (Cary Crankson) shouts out "Blake!" They high-five like two literature geeks. It is delightful and unexpected and we are forced to reevaluate our initial impressions of these characters who at first glance seem to be mere goofball kids out to get high and dance - a valuable lesson. Of course, later in the play when they finally realize that they are not quite in the same reality they were at the start they quote Arthur Brown's Fire - in true head-banger fashion.

There is repetition of key pieces of dialogue and moments from their lives that resonate as the characters move through time from one New Year's Eve to the next and exemplifies the cycles of the earth, cycles of our lives. The beginning is the end: the end, a beginning.

The character of Cleo, played with humor, power and charm by the graceful Ony Uhiara is the most enigmatic. I will not disclose 'who' she is, but suffice to say without her there would be no story. Jane Gibson's movement choreography for Cleo is at once sensual and religious.

The artist, Ellie (Sophie Hunter) is both prophet and the soul of social conscious. Her recurring dreams of drowning and her fascination with the melting glaciers and storm surges propel us towards the inevitable. Sophie Hunter repeats a haunting mantra which is reprinted in the show's program:

"You know, we sit here on the edge of it, on the precipice, just waiting to fall.
And when we do it will be a plunge into the deep dark,
and our green island will be engulfed by the silver sea."

Each time she repeats this I thought well, it's just going to be the same - but it was not. As the play moves forward her retelling of this mantra becomes more and more emotional, more urgent and kudos to Ms. Hunter for giving me goosebumps with these lines.

Tom McClane (Gabriel) and Tim Steed (Stockers) as the epitome of the money making ruiners of the world are, as Mikey and Dario, also not quite what they seem on first glance. Gabriel and Ellie fall for each other and we discover that Gabriel feels more social responsibility than the stereotypical banker/stockbroker. Stockers, who is at first glance "slimy geezer" is revealed to have a secret need that he cannot seem to fulfill; and I believe his journey was the one that moved me the most.

Silverland is at once a warning and a reassurance. Di Trevis's deft direction is a perfect match for this poetic, funny and multi-layered work. It's a strange combination that leaves you feeling both hope and resignation: is the end of the world the cycle of life is as it is meant to be, it is our misfortune to live in 'interesting times' or can we repair the damages we have done? We are left satisfied and questioning in the same breath - what more could you ask from the theater?

59E59 Theaters (B)
59 East 59th St.
New York, NY
Tickets: 212-279-4200
running time: 1 hour 45 mins no intermission
Runs through June 3

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