Top Pick! – I’m sure some people remember those car rides to and from elementary school every day where the parents struggled getting even the littlest details about the day from their young ones, and sometimes the children had some unexpected advice for their parents.
Dan LeFranc’s play 60 Miles to Silver Lake poignantly touches upon these little moments, zeroing in on the disoriented relationship between a divorced father and his son. The play, which runs at Studio Theatre’s 2ndStage until May 9th, recently earned LeFranc the New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award, and rightfully so. Director Serge Seiden’s refinement of the play’s claustrophobic emotions and its fidget-worthy strings of dialogue will leave some audiences dumbstruck by its honesty.
In non-linear fashion, divorced father Ky (Chris Mancusi) is driving his son Denny (Andrew Sonntag) to his house in Silver Lake, California, to spend another quality-time weekend together. Ky is an awkward, moody single dad with almost no censor. When Denny talks about his soccer team, Ky comments on the pedophilia cases involved with youth sports teams; when Denny is shy about relationship advice, Ky gives some vulgar ‘birds-and-bees’ tips. Denny, on the other hand, struggles to understand his parents’ divorce. An overload of information from his mother seems to implicate his father as an over-sexed manipulator with a mid-life crisis. His father is determined to set straight his former wife’s status as a “ditz”, constantly asking Denny about whether she’s been employed yet. The stage is adorned by the frame of an old Volvo, with Ky in the driver’s seat and Denny the passenger, becoming the scene of an uncomfortable ride.
Sonntag takes advantage of Denny’s flighty adolescence, rocking back and forth with his knees at a young age, and slouching at a 45-degree angle in his teens. The evolution of the boy’s speech patterns becomes more interesting in retrospect, as Denny’s fear that genetics will put him in his father’s shoes transforms the way he responds to events. Ky’s conversion – thanks to a religious barista girlfriend – to Christianity is met with youthful derision, as the son belts out his father’s hypocrisy amongst the few choice words Sontaag is given in these scenes. Mancusi’s Ky seems like a cartoon of a pesky parent, but this dissipates after realizing that the father is simply acting the part to win over his son. What the audience is left with is overwhelming: a father who can’t stop asking questions, and a son who can’t get any answers.
The play is written in spurts, marked by quick lighting motifs and a sitcom-like ‘ping!’ over the sound system. As one conversation begins to take flight, LeFranc cuts away to somewhere in time that relates otherwise. Some audience members may grow impatient of the play’s lightning-fast tendencies, as noted by the snappy finale that purées those timed laughs and father-son talks into an incomprehensible mess. Denny avoids discussing his life, Ky does the same – they feign amusement, agreement, and disagreement to make ends meet. Through its mysterious final moments that echo a motif used in Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow-Up, LeFranc questions the grounds of Denny and Ky’s relationship. What exactly were those sixty miles to Silver Lake worth every week? It was the moment they both wanted, but could only afford the illusion.
60 Miles to Silver Lake – TOP PICK!
written by Dan LeFranc
directed by Serge Seiden
presented by Studio Theatre 2ndStage
reviewed by Phil Calabro
60 Miles to Silver Lake is scheduled to run through May 9, 2010.
For Details, Directions and Tickets, click here.