Monday, May 25, 2015

Autobahn shines it's headlights on the drama of road trips.


Handwritten Productions presented Autobahn written by Neil Labute, in the Red Venue of this year's Orlando International Fringe Festival. It presented five one act scenes with the audience voyeuristicly looking through the windshield at couples in the front seats of their car. The show began with headlights shining in the audiences eyes. The first scene featured a young woman, (Kristen Shoffner) in a black skull T-shirt slouching down in the passenger seat. Presumably her mother, (Candy Heller) sat stoic and silent behind the driving wheel. The young woman chatted non-stop while the driver never spoke and always seemed a bit annoyed. It became clear over time that the young woman had beer released from a rehab program. She had learned how to give the staff all the right answers. The one thing she had learned is that she needed to have one person she could always confide in. She informed the driver that it was her lucky day because she would always confide in her. What she confided however was that she couldn't wait to start using again. She missed the rush, the heavenly high. It was clear that the stoic driver wasn't pleased, but she must have had a checkered past as well because the passenger felt no one would take the driver's word were she to try and turn the young woman in.

A boy and girl sat in a car with a bench seat at a lovers point. The girl, (Jillian Gizzi) was on edge because she thought the boy, (Adam DelMedica)  might want to break up with her. Instead then began to make out. When they come up for air she tells him  about the last boy who broke up with her. She sought revenge by mailing dead mice to his house from different locations. She rejoiced in the fact that police were unable to stop her. The boy's face turned pale as he heard about her fatal attraction and unending need for revenge. He had been happy with their relationship, but now he clearly wanted out but was to frightened to broach the subject.

The scene that hit closest to home for me featured an older man behind the wheel, (Lucas Perez) and a young girl curled up in the passenger's seat (Marisa Nieves Hemphill). From their first interactions I presumed this was a father and daughter. He chastised her for her behavior in a rest stop where her temper tantrum had gotten him quite upset. However, the more they spoke, the less close they seemed. I kept trying to guess her age. When she was curled up in the fetal position she seemed like such a young child but as they spoke she seemed to mature. The drivers affection for the girl seemed fine when I imagined he was her dad but when it became clear he was a stranger, his affection became menacing. He was her driver's ed instructor and he was taking her to a secluded cabin. I wanted to shout out, "Get out of the car!" But instead she chatted amicably seeking forgiveness for her outburst at the rest stop. He spotted a deer on the side of the road, and she begged him to turn around so she could see it. He refused. He was now clearly in control. She curled up again. He asked, "Can I touch your hair?" She asked "Why?" "Because I want to." he replied. The lights dimmed as he ran his fingers through her hair. Marisa, the actress in this scene, resembles a friend of mine who once confided that a relative had sexually abused her. This is more common than I ever imagined here in Florida. Another friend, who later committed suicide confided that her brother had done the same when she was very young. She had blocked that memory for years. When it resurfaced, she couldn't live with it. This scene sticks with me because I wish that the inevitable tragedy could be averted.

The plays title comes from the last scene in which the woman says that perhaps the Germans had it right with their Autobahn in that there should be no speed limits and we should speed through life never having time to see the people speeding past us. We are all in a mad automotive rush, but to what end, what final destination? I can't shake this play which first appeared at the Little Shubert Theater in NYC on March 8, 2004. This is what Fringe does best, five one act scenes that will linger forever. This was the Patron's Pick in the Red Venue so there is one more performance.

Autobahn
Last performance: Monday May 25,  12:30pm to 1:30pm
Length: 60 minutes.
Venue: Red (Shakes behind through the courtyard and up to a second floor theater)
Rated: 18+ for language and sexual themes
Tickets: $11 (+service charge)


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