2/14/13 by Myron Meisel
The Bottom Line: Bad dad and tortured teen in a Volvo take a bumpy ride on the 5 Freeway, marked by the fresh, consistent vision of this scrappy determined company.
Father-son bonding is limned over the course of a Southern California car commute.
Divorced father Ky (Wes Whitehead) drives his adolescent son Denny (Daniel David Stewart) from Orange County to his new home in Silver Lake on their periodic visitations. At first, Ky seems simply to epitomize all the wrong approaches of a separated parent, pushing the squirming Denny for intelligence about his mother’s dating life, putting her down and making strained efforts to bond. What starts as plain-wrap domestic realism takes a distinct turn as Sixty Miles to Silver Lake leaps across time, collapsing various occasions of the two guys at different ages and places in their deteriorating relationship. While abrupt at first, these jumps are woven in an easily digestible manner, as we realize that they will never get to Silver Lake, remaining captive within the frame of Ky’s Volvo.
Then, what had evolved into a tapestry-like portrait of an extended toxic failure becomes increasingly jerky, stuttering from encounter to encounter with accelerating shifts of gear, the repeating loops of dialogue spliced more and more thinly, until the show devolves into more of a performance art piece than a conventional play, deploying mash-up techniques more generally associated with digital music or hip-hop, while retaining the dramatic details of what had been a naturalistic portrayal now hopelessly fragmented. Everything breaks down but the car, which inexplicably shakes violently at intervals.
This requires lightning reflexes from the actors, who are well up to the game – whether seeking out truthful behavior in character or executing jarring interruptions of their own arc. Director Becca Wolff plays them like an extended drum solo, with sufficient variation that the rhythms fascinate even as the frissons dissipate. First-rate sound and projection design complement the vision of a theater compatible with an aesthetic for a YouTube present.
Sixty Miles to Silver Lake caps an exceptional season of premieres from IAMA Theatre Company (Shiner, Do Like the Kids Do), all marked by a commitment to texts attuned to the language and sensibilities of our times. This scrappy company luxuriates in the cramped space of The Lounge Theatre, so much roomier for them than their customary even smaller digs off Sunset Blvd.
Venue: The Lounge Theatre (runs through Mar. 10)
Cast: Wes Whitehead, Daniel David Stewart
Director: Becca Wolff
Playwright: Dan LeFranc
Producer: Cymbre Walk
Lighting Designer: Elizabeth Harper
Sound Designer: Veronika Vorel
Projection Design: Kaitlyn Pietras
Costume Supervisor: Louise Munson
An IAMA Theatre Company Presentation