BWW Review: Upstream Theaters Tense and Intense SUSPENDED
Upstream Theater opens their new season with a work by playwright Maya Arad Yasur called SUSPENDED. It's a fascinating piece of theater that touches on the issue of immigrants, and the challenges they face. Many cling to their old beliefs and ways, while some try to completely immerse themselves in our culture because they seek to blend in rather than stand out. These two points of view are discussed at length as a pair of window washers address the world that exists behind the glass they clean. At the same time, a link between the gentleman emerges that reveals some painful truths as to what went on before they actually came to this country. Once again, Upstream Theater has given us something that timely, and which will provide plenty to chew on. It's an engaging and entertaining 75 minute presentation that demands to be seen.
Isaac owns his own business, washing the windows of the high rise towers that dot the city's landscape, and his latest employee is Benjamin. Over the course of their time together we learn that these are people who know each other much better than we initially perceive. In fact, they were once very close, at least until Isaac joined the rebel movement. This information leads to revelations that are striking, and that reveal a genuine rift between them. The play utilizes the confrontation that ultimately occurs between them to generate tension and suspense. We're never sure how this is all going to play out, but we're riveted to their situation, nonetheless.
Reginald Pierre provides a strong portrayal of Isaac, the immigrant entrepreneur who is bound and determined to succeed in his new country. He advises Benjamin on ways for him to "fit in", as they work their way down a 25 story building. His accent suggests he hails from an island nation, but the actual location is never specifically mentioned. He has skeletons in his closet that are brought to the fore by Benjamin, very nicely essayed by Phillip C. Dixon. As Benjamin, Dixon is a living and breathing reminder of all that Isaac has tried to put behind him. And, the past has a nasty way of bubbling up to the surface as they converse, with the tension leading to moments of physical conflict between them.
Linda Kennedy's direction is smartly conceived, and even though we're basically watching two actors interact while suspended above the stage, the action never becomes static. The play itself sometimes becomes slightly repetitious as some points are hammered on repeatedly, but the pace and intensity of the production prevents this from ever being any kind of hindrance. Cristie Johnston's scenic design is very cleverly constructed and utilized, and Claudia Horn's props add authenticity. As the story unfolds, any disbelief is, literally, suspended as we're drawn more and more into the details of the plot. Tony Anselmo's lighting design is straight forward, working in concert with Dan Strickland's sound design to denote the scene changes that occur. Erik Kuhn contributes the fight choreography, which brings physicality to the conflict that exists between these two men.
Upstream Theaters splendid, thought-provoking production of SUSPENDED continues through October 23, 2016 at the Kranzberg Arts Center.
Photo credit: ProPhotoSTL