BWW Reviews: 5th Wall's Inaugural Production of H20
Jane Martin's H20 is a perfect choice for the inaugural production by Richmond's newest theater company- 5th Wall.
Carol Piersol, the Founding Artistic Director of the Firehouse Theatre Project and Billy Christopher Maupin, a staple as an actor and director in Richmond, joined forces to form this new production company whose mission is to present plays that go beyond the fourth wall of the audience, into the fifth wall of peoples' consciences and provide insights into the human condition through theatrical expression.
H20 follows the relationship between a self-important, foul mouthed, pampered actor, Jake (Landon Nagel) who achieved over night fame and fortune in a series of Hollywood action films as "Dawn Walker;" and a young, uptight, tightly wound, devoutly religious aspiring actress Deborah (Liz Earnest). Due to his box office success, Jake has been cast as Hamlet in a limited run Broadway production. He pursues Deborah to be his Ophelia, after she shows up at his apartment for a scheduled audition, only to rescue him from a suicide attempt.
Both characters continuously break the fourth wall to narrate for the audience what they are thinking and feeling. This indeed effectively draws the audience into peoples' consciences and provides insights into the human condition through theatrical expression.
Nagel and Earnest work well together creating the sexual tension, flirtation and animosity between the divergent and damaged pair. Their comedic timing, emotional depth and energetic repartee take the audience through a wild several months in the duos lives.
H20 in itself has many meanings in the play- as an abbreviation for Hamlet to Ophelia, as water for baptism and as the liquid in a bath tub.
Director Morrie Piersol keeps the action lively and fluid through the 90 minute one act play. Tennessee Dixon's minimalist set uses a bare stage with a few projections and constantly moving set pieces to display the vignettes in their lives. The set crew deserves special recognition as an intricate part of the play. They are seamless in constantly moving pieces on and off, handing the actors props and even at times dressing and undressing them on stage.
The biggest glitch came with some lighting problems, as a couple of the lights seemed to malfunction and blink distractingly throughout the show.
While dealing with adult themes and language; the production works for teens on up, as my 16 year old son found the performances "hilarious," yet at time disturbing. The characters' lives in many ways parallel Hamlet and Ophelia; yet with a modern touch of "Rachel (the uptight prim and proper actress)and Finn (the swaggering ladies' man)" from Glee 10 years later.
H20 is indeed the right baptism to welcome this infant production company into Richmond's theater community.
H20 runs through September 27 at Virginia Rep Center's Theater Gym. www.5thwalltheatre.org