Marc Collins

Death is in the Refrigerator

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Pluto closed last Sunday. Out of context, I guess that sentence could mean just about anything.

"Yep, just need to mail these loan documents and I'll be a homeowner!"

Yep, just need to mail these loan documents and I’ll be a homeowner!

Let me try that again. Pluto, a new play by Los Angeles playwright Steve Yockey, just ended its run at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater on Sunday. Yockey is an insightful and imaginative writer whose works deal with important human issues but often feature fantastical and mythological elements. I think these otherworldly devices help audiences process difficult topics better than if they were faced with pure reality.

We’ve talked a little bit about storytelling in this blog before, but I thought it was worth it to revisit because this play really takes the art of the story to a much higher level.

I’m a big movie buff, but movies are very different animals. When theatre gets desperate and presents itself like cinema to try and drag a few more folks in from the multiplex, I think theatre loses.

It's Reservoir Dogs! But it's a play! I really wish this was a joke!

It’s Reservoir Dogs! But it’s a play! I really wish this was a joke!

But when it does things that movies can’t do, when it personally delivers human drama to audience members who are physically in the room with the storytellers, then it really wins. And man, this play really won.

You might think I’m biased because my wife was part of the group of artists who produced this work, but she’ll be the first to tell you that I can be a pretty harsh critic when I feel like something doesn’t come together.

Right away I was drawn into the seemingly ordinary world by the beautifully grounded text and performances. And as it morphed smoothly from a harried single mother sparring with her underachieving post-teen son drama to the gruesome horror of a mass shooting…as we slowly realize that time isn’t moving…that something may be terribly wrong with that tenaciously perky blonde who keeps appearing…and as the incarnation of death comes in through the refrigerator with the help of the mythical three-headed dog usually found guarding the gates of the underworld? Well, the play really had me in the palm of its hand.

Just business as usual, nothing to see here.

Just business as usual, nothing to see here.

Keep in mind that this was not random. The events and transitions were seamlessly interwoven – inviting the audience to learn, feel, fear, and grieve in real time with the characters.

The world of corporate video production rarely overlaps with this kind of surreal and marvelous landscape, but a lot of the underlying fundamentals that we rely on – elements like structure, theme, and tone – are shared. So there’s that. (Blog post = validated.)

I’m not a drama critic, and this isn’t a review (like I said, the production has already closed), but I’d like to congratulate all of the storytellers – the actors, designers, stage managers and production artists, the director, and the playwright – and thank them for bringing this work to the stage in The City Beautiful.

Art like this elevates the mind and enriches the soul.


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