Monday, May 24, 2010

Dark Ride

A ‘DARK RIDE’ at convergence continuum

You don’t go to convergence-continuum to see traditional theatre fare. You go to see what off-the-wall script Artistic Director Clyde Simon has pulled out of his theatrical hat. Simon’s motto seems to be, “The weirder, the better.” And, if that’s what draws you to con-con, you’ll be thrilled with his most recent find, ‘DARK RIDE.’

A dark ride or ghost train is the British term for an indoor amusement ride where the participants are guided through specially lit scenes that typically contain animation, sound, music, and special effects. The effect is surreal. This concept is the basis for Len Jenkin’s ‘DARK RIDE,’ in which peculiar actions increasingly create “convoluted disquisitions on the nature of coincidence.”

As one past reviewer of a production of the script stated, "’DARK RIDE’ offers quirky entertainment for an audience that is not terribly concerned about making sense of what is going on.” To which I say, “Right on!”

The cast of characters includes a book reading young woman whose boyfriend has disappeared, the boyfriend (a thief), a couple who from time to time appear to run a carnival, a would-be translator of what is possibly a fake third-century-B.C. Chinese document, a blustering soldier of fortune, a waitress, and a woman who is an expert on coincidence, and assures us that “Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and Jesus was entombed for three days. What a coincidence!”

Jenkin weaves the mélange together into a whole that he assumes the viewer will, somehow, be able to merge. But like a fun house ride, he also allows for the fact that the whole doesn’t have to blend together. By the end, as the young man sitting next to me stated, “I’m not interested in philosophy, just tell me how it ended and why.”

Geoffrey Hoffman has the task of directing the play. Despite that on opening night there were numerous line flubs, all in all, he does a nice job. There were many laughs from the sold out opening night audience, some because of the plot’s ridiculousness, some from actually funny lines.

Lucy Bredeson-Smith, she of tall angular body and “creative make-up,” fills the role of the laughing lady of coincidence at the amusement park, with her usual bizarre sense of humor and high quality acting. The rest of the cast fulfills their roles in blending together the ride, with various levels of success.

Capsule Judgement: ‘DARK RIDE’ isn’t for everyone. It takes a special person, with a strange sense of the ironic and flexible logic, to enjoy the machinations of Len Jenkin’s mind. If you are one of those, you’ll appreciate con-con’s latest offering.