Ever notice how some of the most important, intimate conversations of your life have occurred inside automobiles? Maybe it’s the confined quarters, or the inability to easily escape, or just the fact that driver and passenger must talk without maintaining eye contact. Whatever the reason, the phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by Neil LaBute, one of modern American theater’s premiere purveyors of misanthropy. In Handwritten Productions’ presentation of “Autobahn,” LaBute’s cycle of short plays set inside cars, five couples face moments of existential crisis while behind the wheel, always with uncomfortably enigmatic results.
The first vignette, “Funny,” features Kristin Shoffner (Megan Borkes on May 17 & 23) as a girl fresh out of rehab being a little too honest with her stoic mother. “Bench Seat,” the most overtly comic piece, finds Jillian Gizzi and Adam DelMedico (Jessica Grossman & Chris Metz May 23 & 24) in the uncomfortable kind of lover’s lane clinch. In “All Apologies,” Stephen Pugh (David Tate May 23 & 24) finds the worst way possible to apologize to his wife, and “Road Trip” is a chilling glimpse into an inappropriate relationship starring Lucas Perez and Marisa Nieves Hemphill (Ross Alagna and Deanna Quintero May 23 & 24). Finally, Candy Heller is a foster mother trying to justify a devastating decision in “Autobahn,” which summarizes the evening by asking if, in the absence of speed limits, we would all drive too fast to care about the people we pass.
Due to director/producer Chris Metz’s unusual decision to rotate performers for the final weekend, I can only comment on the opening cast, but the preview I attended featured consistently compelling acting, especially from Pugh, Gizzi and DelMedico. Three of the quintet’s scripts are essentially monologues, but the silent partners in each do an excellent job of active listening. And while there’s no set or blocking to speak of, the blinding headlights that bracket the show felt appropriately intrusive. LaBute’s view of humanity is never pleasant, but these bracing dramas make a welcome palate cleanser between all the Fringe frivolity.
- Orlando, FL
Length: 60 minutes
Rating: 18 and up