BWW Review: An ELEVATOR Ride Provides an Emotionally Uplifting Experience for Seven Strangers
When traveling between floors on an elevator, how often do you look around and react to strangers, wondering who they are or what they do for a living? And if you guess, what percentage of the time will you be wrong? Such is the challenge presented by the hit 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival play ELEVATOR, written and directed by award-winning filmmaker and playwright Michael Leoni, based on the original short film Someplace In Between (an Official Selection of the 2009 LA Shorts Film Festival). The play originally premiered at the Hudson theaters during the first annual Hollywood Fringe Festival. After a wildly successful run, the smash hit expanded to the Hudson Mainstage Theatre and then the Macha Theater, receiving 11 nominations including "Best New Work" from Broadway World as well as "Critic's Choice" and "Best Bet" from the Los Angeles Times. Now is your chance to catch it at The Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood through April 30.In ELEVATOR, seven strangers get stuck together in an elevator between floors, and it's only a matter of time before the truth comes out as each of them struggles to come to terms with their captivity. Given nothing but four walls and each other, these archetypes prove to be anything but 'typical.' Their preconceived notions, stereotypes and judgments are challenged at every turn, as one by one, they shed their masks and reveal their truths. Laced with musical sequences and cinematic style, ELEVATOR is a comedic and emotional ride into the human psyche that asks the fundamental question: who are you behind closed doors when you think the end is near? Featured in the cast are the too-perfect-to-be real handsome Business Man (David Abed who expertly plays this asshole to the hilt), the building's Maintenance Man (William Stanford Davis) who is hiding just what he really does for a living, an Office Temp (Erica Katzin) addicted to food and battling her "fat" self-image who has a big creative surprise, the Hot Girl (Karsen Rigby) who admits she never feels good enough even though every man near her would disagree strongly with that, a Goth Girl (Kristina St. Peter) who is the last to catch the elevator while hanging onto a large packing box, a frustrated CEO Woman (Deborah Vancelette) whose mental state is constantly in question, and a Musician (Devon Werkheiser) who carries his guitar as if it is the only thing he owns. Rounding out the cast is Tyler Tanner who introduces the play as Tyler, an elevator repair man who is often heard in voiceovers, assuring the group that their captivity will be over soon. Each of the seven actors are so in touch with their characters that as we learn more about them as the hours pass, it's remarkable to see how wrong their first impressions of each other really were. With each passing minute, secrets are revealed and each learns to work together to ensure all of them survive, be it the Temp who pulls mounds of food from her purses as well as the only bottle of water among the group, to the self-centered Business Man and CEO Woman who at first can only think about how the stoppage is going to affect their lives with little concern for anyone else. As the lighting design around each character changes color on bathes them in a spotlight, we hear their inner thoughts not verbally expressed. And mot of the time these opinions are about sex and their pre-conceived notions about wanting to get it on with the Hot Girl - the most enticing being an imaginary lap dance she does for the Musician as he imagines being with her. Brilliantly written and directed by Michael Leoni with Scenic and Lighting Design by David Goldstein, Sound Design by Paul Seradarian and Costumes by Michael Mullen, with each element adding focus and bits of realism to every technical aspect of the show, the actors' choreography in the small space signals time passing when sped up to moments of great thought during freeze frames. And just when things appear to be reaching an emotional breaking point, Devon Werkheiser's lovely guitar riffs calm things down so that even more secrets are revealed, changing several of the strangers' lives in a blink of an eye.
By the end, each of them has had an epiphany about how to best live their lives as the elevator door opens and the play ends. I guarantee by the end of the almost 2-hour play (staged without an intermission), you will feel as if you have witnessed a group therapy session that has worked its magic on seven people headed for disaster who ultimately see how to turn their lives around and be better people, for themselves and each other. It's an uplifting experience!
ELEVATOR continues at the Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069 through April 30, 2017 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm & Sundays at 3pm (check for extension). Single tickets are available for $40. Parking is available at The Kings Rd parking structure (Kings Rd & Santa Monica Blvd). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit plays411.com/elevator or call (323) 960-7787. Due to the nature of the play, no late seating will be accommodated.
Photo Credit: Michele Young