A fantasy ride toward death in 'Linus and Alora' at Single Carrot Theatre
Mortality is such a downer.
No wonder many of us live in a perpetual state of denial about death, which is the approach of a young woman given nine months to live at the start of "Linus and Alora," the recent Andrew Irons play running through July 10 at Single Carrot Theatre.
Alora takes it one step farther than denial, actually, all the way into fantasy land. Not a bad way to go.
Gradually and sometimes painfully, husband Linus agrees to join her there. In the process, he doesn't just humor Alora, but also finds a way to confront his own, long-suppressed issues about death.
Irons has approached a topic all too familiar from disease-movies-of-the-week and given it enough freshness, enough surprise to create quite an absorbing experience. "Linus and Alora" -- am I the only one who thinks that's an ineffectual title? -- makes a snug fit for the avant-garde-friendly Single Carrot troupe, which brings vibrant acting and stagecraft to the material.
The production, directed by Genevieve de Mahy, has ...
an effective rhythm, and not just because of the periodic live music and video episodes -- or the thump of a heartbeat (that sound is really too cliched to be effective). The flights of fancy take off with considerable expressive flair; tender and bittersweet scenes are nicely handled.
De Mahy also designed the set, which includes a pit filled with stuffed animals that seem ever on the verge of animation. Several artists contributed to the evocative film projections. Chelsey Schuler's costumes do the trick.
Alora is an intriguing character, whose previous escapes into an imaginary world have given her a most creative impulse. The dark medical news she receives sets that impulse into overdrive, inspired initially by the ironic nine-month factor in her prognosis -- the first thing Alora invents is a pregnancy.
Susannah Edwards is telling in the role, deftly conveying the gentle soul behind the desperation. Nathan A. Cooper likewise does vivid work as the angst-ridden, vulnerable Linus.
One of the best moments in the play, one that will resonate with anyone who has lost (or is afraid of losing) a loved one, comes when Linus expresses his deep fear of losing Alora. Her simple response: "You won't be alone." Cooper and Edwards make that small exchange remarkably touching.
Alora's imaginary brothers -- she must have watched a lot of "The Three Stooges" as a kid -- are portrayed with vocal and physical flourish by Kaveh Haerian (Neal), Nathan Fulton (Owen), and Mike Zemarel (Arthur).
Jessica Garrett and Paul Wissman handle their dual assignments deftly. Melissa Wimbish and David Kellam, as a spectral Cuban couple, move stylishly through the play.
The finely matched musicians -- Madeline de Mahy, Paul Diem, Jeremy Durkin -- and the colorful, folksy score (a collaborative effort) add greatly to the atmospheric layering of the production.
PHOTOS (by Chris Hartlove) COURTESY OF SINGLE CARROT THEATRE