Lucy, the questing heroine of Melanie Marnich's road trip/soul search, aspires to be something she isn't. Simple, good-hearted, and romantic, this woman on a hunt cross-country for a true love comes to idolize a ruthless, brilliant female scientist-turned-serial-killer. Similarly Quake aspires to be something more profound and darker than its substance can support. At its essence, the show is similar to a few recent solo turns in L.A. in which the performer runs through her catalog of past loves for the amusement and empathy of the audience. Here, however, this familiar confession setup is couched in a fragmented, Erik Ehn-like dialogue and a creatively abstract presentation--and gratefully so. The result is an amusing, visually arresting--at times poetic--piece that nonetheless can't quite hide its essentially shallow roots.
Director Amy Feinberg has assembled a smart, versatile group of young performers--most of whom convincingly transform from character to character, region to region, to embody Lucy's various romantic entanglements in her trek across the States. Particularly adept at these transformations is Nathan Brooks Burgess, who goes from Maine backwoodsman to randy Southern aristocrat to an effeminate flight attendant with ease. Adrianne Avey, strapped with the wide-eyed earnest Lucy, wisely plays the naive woman to the hilt, instead of trying to color her with irony. While the audience may initially find her too saccharine, we are eventually won over by Avey's conviction. Dinah Hamilton as the ruthless black-widow scientist has the appropriate larger-than-life delivery and appearance, which is particularly supported by Katy Brisbois' sexy, impressionist costume.
In fact, Feinberg's entire design team is at its finest here. Set designer Trefoni Rizzi's thick map of a playing surface spills off the stage into the audience. Street signs and trunks transform into tables, chairs, and counters in the lightning-fast scene changes. Appropriately cartoonish and creatively versatile, Rizzi's set will not be forgotten come Garlands time.
Feinberg understands her material--which is not surprising considering she's already directed Quake for Lincoln Center Directors Lab and at the Humana Festival in Louisville this February. She plays to the offbeat comic strengths of the play and never lets us dwell on the not fully formed intellectual musings for long. Quake is an enjoyable, brief evening of light romanticism and invigorating images. However, it's but a tremor in the theatrical scene at this point. One can't help but feel that bigger things are in store for Feinberg, Marnich, and the producing company Theatre Pangaea. Like Lucy, they are reaching for something bigger but just haven't found it yet.
Guy, Cooper, Trooper, Flight Attendant...Nathan Brooks Burgess
Brian, Roger, Park Groundskeeper...Corey Hayes
That Woman...Dina Hamilton
Jock, Pilot, Mechanic...P.J. Sosko
Psychiatrist, Clerk... Beatrice Casini
Nice Guy, Angel Bruce...Jeremy Guskin