BWW Review: NAVIGATORS at Tallahassee Hispanic Theater
A soft glow illuminates the face of "She" (Alejandra Gutierrez), emanating from a computer screen. In another room, the face of "He" (Mattie Ward) is illuminated much the same way (with the sheen of pizza grease adding a bit more shine.
Each one is dressed for a day behind the keyboard, in clothes not necessarily meant for going out in public. They are prepared for a day creating selves that the play, "Navigators," tries to unearth as She and He venture out into the real world, then retreat back to those dimly lit screens.
One relationship aspect this play captures perfectly is the mystery and power of expectations. Should He and She meet? How will reality mesh with the images built over hours using ten fingers, one brain and a boundless imagination?
The successive meetings of He and She demonstrate an evolution of sorts. Each time, in one way or another, He and She arrive with a cocktail of doubt, faith, adventure and hubris.
What the cocktail almost always lacks, though, is truth.
When He and She are not behind their softly lit screens, they are either seated on a park bench or in a sparsely furnished hotel room. Furnishings are pretty secondary, though, to the action taking place on stage.
Alejandra Guierrez is calculating yet vulnerable, a risk taker caught in her own web of insecurities. Her comfort with overlooking the truth is easy for her to take, hard for the audience to stomach. She is so likable, it is hard to stay angry and easy to think one more online conversation, one more in-person meeting, will even the score.
Mattie Ward brings an energy to the role that begs to be loosened from the constraints of being stuck behind a screen (although, conversely, "He" seems like he would be OK in front of that computer as long as meal delivery had not been suspended). Mattie demonstrates a certain nervous energy, a sense of trying to fit an excess of energy into the world's conscripted expectations, a playfulness ... until things take a darker turn. He is not beyond trading in the playful for the posturing.
Audience members follow the trips of the couple from the safety and relative anonymity of their screens, through their forays in the real world, back to the inevitable retreat to screen time. Much of the dialogue reflects how slippery the truth can be, and how some people seem to survive by untruths and evasion.
"She" and "He" never quite get to the truth the audience may be hoping for, but they navigate to a real and candid place.
The run in Tallahassee was the first English-language showing of the play. It was directed by Kevin Carr.