“Enter at Forest Lawn” at Walkerspace (Closed on Saturday August 9, 2014)

July 18, 2014 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
Written by Mark Roberts
Directed by Jay Stull
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

An Ode (of sorts) to “Enter at Forest Lawn”

It is perhaps all those wrong turns into Forest Lawn (and other gateways to divided eternal futures) that seem to get us and Jessica (Sarah Lemp) into trouble. We start out all right (ostensibly). Wounded and be-hooked Clinton (Matthew Pilieci) writes in his journal that we are all “pretty much the same” with similar needs, hopes, and problems. But then we get caught up in Jabberwokian machinations and the world begins to tilt a bit, spin uncontrollably, fall out of focus, and ultimately, as Lewis Carroll observes, non-sense reigns: “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.”

Like embattled attorney Stanley (David Lanson) who does his best to cover up sitcom star Danny’s delving into debauchery and delusion, we fall ill; and like aforementioned Jessica we are defiled and demoralized by the vicissitudes of life; and like protagonist Jack (Mark Roberts) and his arch-nemesis (or doppelganger) Marla (Anna Stromberg) we get caught up in the culture of competition and success and destroy others before we self-destruct. We call it “getting where we are through talent, hard work, and perseverance” but we secretly know someone has to perish in the fusillade of grenades we have to throw in order to protect our borders and release our rage.

Mark Roberts’s “Enter at Forest Lawn” is having its world premiere as part of the Amoralists’s two-play repertory “Gyre” currently running at Walkerspace in New York City. Mr. Roberts also serves as the play’s protagonist Jack who holds forth with a draconian vengeance in his netherworld-like executive office as he attempts to balance success with responsibility and champion fantasy over reality at whatever the cost. Jack is the holy officiate at his own brand of Eucharist behind and around his altar which alternately serves as a table of blessing and an altar of sacrifice. Eventually un-done by Marla’s nephew Clinton in a hook-bashing battle, Jack remains on the Amoralists’s list of stunning morally ambiguous characters.

Under Jay Stull’s convincing and animated direction, the ensemble cast of “Enter at Forest Lawn” brilliantly teases the super ego of the audience with a delicious diet of challenges to its conscience-cluttered domain. After assuming Clinton lost his hand in the Iraq/Iran Wars (His aunt Marla is not sure which) during an attempt to rescue a civilian child, the audience learns later that Clinton lost his hand by holding on too long to one of the grenades he launched into a crowd of civilians. But then again, he was a troubled and abused child and teenager – so who’s to blame? Each cast member carves a believable character out of Mark Roberts’s script. And you either care about them or you do not. You just need to know you are a hair’s breadth away from being or becoming any one of them at any given time.

Catherine Correa’s choreography counterpoints Mr. Stull’s already dynamic direction and imitates the synapse-smashing thoughts swirling in the characters’ brains. David Harwell’s set is miraculously overwhelming as the audience tries to decide if it is an office suite, a worship space, a cemetery chapel, a glimpse of the underworld, or perhaps an illusion. And Jeanne Travis’s sound design will keep you looking under your bed before retiring for some time to come.

Everything is just right in Mark Robert’s brilliant script – or is it just wrong? If you think you know right from wrong, good from evil and have not yet experienced William Butler Yeats’s “The Second Coming” other than in his iconic poem, enter Jack’s world for seventy blessed minutes and think again:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/ The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

How is that for a dose of reality? “Enter at Forest Lawn” is brilliant on all counts and needs to be seen before August 9, 2014. Then again, there is no reason it might not have a life beyond its current Walkerspace run.