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At first glance Do Not Disturb features people talking, sometimes saying nothing and sometimes talking crazy. But through this clever collection of one-acts a common theme begins to emerge – intimacy. To most of us it means sex, but that’s not what playwright Joshua Fardon is after (though there’s a little of that, too). Instead he sets out to explore what intimacy implies and that’s trust, whether it’s an encounter with a stranger, a favor from a friend or a spat between husband and wife. This ability to confound expectations and take a surprising angle on an evocative notion is emblematic of what Fardon does best in Do Not Disturb. His natural dialogue and settings seduce the audience into a place of comfort and trust, only to find things are not going where they expected.
Starting off the night, Blanks features two married couples – Pat (Tony DeCarlo) and Sandy (Kathy Deitch), hosting June (Jenny Gillett) and Bill (Travis York). Familiar small talk eventually leads to the point of their get together – Pat is sterile and they wonder if Bill will help them out. The proposal is passed off in a casual way that only succeeds in horrifying June and Bill who immediately angle for an exit. Pat, realizing the misstep, tries to convince them he was only joking. The situation is absurd, obscene, sad and sincere all at once. And as the night proceeds it’s what typifies Fardon’s writing. The audience always enters mid-sentence and is left gleaning clues about who is talking to whom and the nature of their relationship. Just when you feel you have a handle on it, things take a left turn and you find yourself floundering again. In the hands of a lesser writer it would be mere gimmickry but Fardon makes it an art form.
The second play, Due Diligence, takes things even further as a nervous father, Walter (David Bickford), interviews his future daughter-in-law, Marilyn (Jenny Soo). He claims he is merely doing due diligence, asking questions he has no business asking, which she abruptly answers, all but ignoring him as she fiddles with her smart phone. Yet, for all her indifference a relationship forms. But beneath the dialogue we have to ask what kind. Inevitably we end up in place we didn’t see coming, which in retrospect seems inevitable.
Kjai Block and Channing Sargent have their hands full in Soon My Angel Came Again playing husband and wife, Mary and John, who are visited by an acid-tongued angel (Tricia Munford). As they bicker, the angel mirthlessly gives voice to the strained undercurrent between them. It’s a slight piece that fits snugly with the theme of the night but plays more as inspired sketch comedy than a one act, though the jaundiced conclusion elevates it to a level of uncomfortable recognition – the truth is better off dead.
Following the intermission, Rise, a world premiere, fills out the rest of the program. A two-hander it starts with bedraggled scholar Kevin (Troy Blendell) standing in the doorway, blocking flirtatious young Elizabeth (Jennifer Flack) from entering his apartment. Claiming to be a close friend on Facebook, she seems to know everything about him, reliving fond memories from school. This only confuses Kevin who barely uses Facebook and has a hard time remembering who she is.
In time we learn that he is a mathematician working on an impossible-looking equation, one it turns out Elizabeth has already solved with the help of a spider. It also turns out she has the solution hidden in a bodily cavity. It gets stranger and stranger as Kevin is compelled to invade spaces he normally wouldn’t. Rise is the most hair-raising, unfathomable play of the night and represents a leap into chaos that the evening seems to have been building up to.
Troy Blendell gives a superb performance in the program’s most interesting role. And Jennifer Flack, understudying for Chantelle Albers, finds a riveting balance between flirty and insane. To single out these two is not to ignore the rest of the Theatre of NOTE ensemble. Performances range from excellent to outstanding under the steady hand of director Kevin Hoffer who demonstrates a keen grasp of Fardon’s enigmatic material. He walks a fine line between humor and pathos with his actors, leading them with a sure hand through challenging terrain that demands and receives delicate stewardship.
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Jeriana San Juan