The series starts with “A Girl’s Guide to Coffee,” which was staged by Actors’ Summit in their 2012 season. The plot finds twenty-two year old Alex, a college grad, working as a barista. Alex’s plan is to have no plan at all. But into her life accidentally flows handsome, artistic and some-time repairman, Christopher, who seems, in his subtle, and often bumbling way, to have other ideas for Alex’s existence.
“Stranded on Earth,” which finds Alexa, in her 40s, is the second script in the series, but was written last. It is presently getting its regional premiere in a co-production of Mamai Theatre Company and Theater Ninjas.
“The Velocity of Autumn,” which recently had a Broadway run, garnered Estelle Parsons a Best Acting Tony nomination. The play had a run at Beck Center last season, feaqturing a superb Dorothy Silver performance. Velocity was the third play in Coble’s Alexandra trilogy.
Velocity found 78-year old Alexandra barricaded in her NY brownstone, resisting being put “away” by her children. She does have slips of memory, her knees and back hurt, she can no longer hold a paint brush, but she is sharp enough to know that she doesn’t want to leave her home and go to an extended care facility. She thoroughly believes, ‘There are good and bad ways to die.”
The one-hour, “Stranded on Earth,” an existentialistic exercise, finds Alexa in a state of emotional distress, “asking why do I exist?” She’s a creative artist who finds herself in the midst of midlife chaos. Everything has changed. She isn’t sure where her life went off track and how, or if, can she get restarted.
As she probes and rants, she creates a Jackson Pollack-like abstract painting, tossing and splattering paint from above, then wallowing in it and then traipsing around, blurring the colors to create a final image that is much like her chaotic thoughts.
Coble’s poetic writing in “Stranded on Earth, in contrast to his sequential and traditional verbiage of “A Girl’s Guide to Coffee” and “The Velocity of Autumn” is a little off-setting. Alexa’s grasping to make things come together in some logical form not only alludes Alexa, but, at times, the viewer.
Coble, who lived on Indian reservations as a youth, uses allusions to the artistic and religious pattern of creating “unfixed sand paintings,” ritual artistic arrangements which are destroyed or blow away after a ceremony is finished.
Derdriu Ring is compelling as Alexa. Hers is an impressive performance. She flows in a torrent of torment, unable to find the right colors, blends, words, images, and clarity to explain to herself, or convey to the viewer, a clear line that makes us believe that she, and us, will be able to find our way.
Director Jeremy Paul, the artistic director of Ninja, has helped Ring develop a mesmerizing performance.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Mamaí’s mission is “to create intelligent, relevant classical theatre that offers an artistic home for Cleveland’s theatre artists, and equal opportunity for women in the professional theatre community.” Theater Ninja’s goal is to “reimagine how and why we tell stories, and help us to create deep, fascinating worlds for the audience to explore.” Their production of Eric Coble’s “Stranded on Earth,” with a master class demonstration of finite acting by Derdriu Ring, well meets both organization’s purposes.
Mamaí and Theater Ninja’s STRANDED ON EARTH runs through June 22 at the Pilgrim Church, 2592 West 14th Street, Cleveland, For tickets go to: http://www.mamaitheatreco.org