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Theater Ninjas/Mamaì Theater’s ‘Stranded on Earth’ stands alone with help

With a little pre-show homework, this show is easy to understand
With a little pre-show homework, this show is easy to understand
Theater Ninjas/Mamaì Theater’s

Stranded on Earth

Rating:
Star4
Star
Star
Star
Star

Stranded On Earth
Written by Eric Coble
Directed by Jeremy Paul
Starring Derdriu Ring*
Through June 22, 2014
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays & Monday June 9
8:00 p.m.
Sundays
2:30 p.m.
Pilgrim Congregational Church
2592 West 14th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(The production space is not ADA accessible.)
(*Actor appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association)

To truly understand Eric Coble’s play “Stranded on Earth” you need to have at least a passing comprehension of the prequel “A Girl’s Guide to Coffee” and the sequel “The Velocity of Autumn”. Much like “Star Wars” and “The Matrix” the second show is the buffer that links the two on either end but by itself makes little sense.

In “A Girl’s Guide to Coffee”, Alex is a freshly graduated Biology Major working as a Barista at “The Steamed Bean”. Her artistic outlet is in creating intricate Buddhist Mandalas in the foam of her “perfect lattes” while espousing how everything in the world relates to coffee. As her friends and co-workers are making plans and commitments for the dreaded “life after college” (while trying to convince Alex to do the same), Alex has firmly made herself non-committal to all advances of employment, love and life. In the end, a Kent State acting student, Christopher, wanders into the shop one day and begins to charm the bricks out of the wall that Alex has built.

“The Velocity of Autumn” finds Alexandra in her eighties and self barricaded in her brownstone dwelling threatening to blow the entire block up with bottles of photo chemicals (left over from her late husband’s darkroom) if her two children dare to put her in an assisted living facility. Enter estranged son Chris who has climbed the tree to the second story window and whom she has not seen in twenty years. Once he enters they spend the play bantering, re-establishing contact and recommitting to each other.

Thus, “Stranded on Earth” is Alexa as a forty something soccer mom/wife/advertising agency graphic artist who just when she gets all the balls she is juggling neatly into the air, someone throws her a golf ball, soccer ball and mixer to add to the collection.

In the beginning of the play, Alexa tells how the sun has not shown for over a month and according to renowned scientists, the clouds are descending giving advantage to short people. It soon becomes clear that something horrible has happened that distinguishes between “before and after” the clouds. In no particular order, Alexa tells about life as a mom of a son who does “dumb things just for the effect” and a daughter who loves sports. She tells of the loving relationship with her husband in the past and present tense as well as her parents in the same vein.

In short, Alexa is in the middle of a mid-life crisis where someone who never wanted to commit is suddenly finding herself stifled. Her life is no longer her own but a series of promised commitments to family and work. She has had to totally give up on her dreams of being an artist simply to find the time needed for all the demands. Her paycheck goes to the house payment for a home she never wanted as she finds herself picking up the slack left behind by her husband who is too busy to contribute in the daily running of the household.

It is then that the catastrophe is revealed. Following an out of town soccer game she loads the two children and her parents into the van for the freeway trip home. During a fatal moment of multi-sourced distraction the van is forced off a freeway bridge through the guard rail and her experience is described in slow-motion clarity. Although never clearly stated, one assumes that the children survive (they reappear in “The Velocity of Autumn”) but her parents do not for they later appear as ghosts at the advertising agency she works at.

In order to cope with the loss she returns to the one thing that is truly an outlet for her emotions…painting. Taking a “canvas”, she stretches it out on the six foot square stage using a staple gun to secure it. While telling of a total breakdown episode involving her children she begins to paint in the style of Jackson Pollock… dripping the paint here and there, sprinkling, smearing and brushing all the while the pent-up frustration and anguish is unleashed in a screaming frenzy.

The play concludes with her telling how she (real or imagined is unclear) has organized a group of helicopters to extend an enormous painted sheet across the city with blue sky and clouds illustrated on it while being illuminated from a series of bright lights in the city to give the appearance of sky below the grey clouds. Thus through her art she is finally able to recreate the blue sky that she so desperately misses.

Derdriu Ring is no stranger to audiences in Cleveland. Most recently she has appeared as Nicole in “The Big Meal” at Dobama Theater, as Ellen in “There is Happiness That Morning Is at CPT and Annette in “God of Carnage” at Dobama. Her courageous portrayal of this damaged human recovering from a devastating catastrophe is phenomenal. One minute she has the audience laughing at the antics of her family, the other gasping at the slow motion horror of a vehicle totally out of control and air born. So immersed in this play is she that at the end her clothes and skin are themselves a canvas that the paint has been applied to.

Prude Alert: There is very brief profanity (maybe three words) that is used to illustrate the anguish of the character. While quite funny in parts, there are some very intense scenes. You will need to make up your minds on this one.

Beefs and Flubs: Being the consummate actor that Derdriu Ring is, I could not detect a single mis-cue. She throws herself into the part with abandon. The only problem I had was when she moved to the back of the stage and there was a lack of projection during some of the quieter segments.

Shooting From The Lip (In My Opinion): I strongly suggest that prior to seeing Eric Coble’s “Stranded on Earth” you become familiar with the other two parts of his trilogy, “A Girl’s Guide to Coffee” and “The Velocity of Autumn” either through reviews or synopsizes. This will greatly add to your enjoyment and understanding of this one woman acting masterpiece starring Derdriu Ring. Thoughtful, Funny, Intense and Jarring.

The Crew

“Stranded on Earth” is directed by Jeremy Paul with Inda Blatch-Geib, Costume Designer; Christina Dennis, Stage Manager; Zachary Svoboda as Lighting Designer; Bernadette Clemens, Mamai Co- Artistic Director; Christine McBurney, Mamai Co-Artistic Director, Producer; Ray Caspio, Associate Artistic Director and Ryan Lucas, Marketing Coordinator.

TICKETS: strandedonearth.brownpapertickets.com
General Admission: $20 - Over 65: $18 - Under 25: $10 - Monday: $10

Mamaí Theatre Company
Web: http://www.mamaitheatreco.org
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mamaitheatreco #stranded
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mamaitheatreco

Theater Ninjas
Web: http://www.theaterninjas.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/theaterninjas #stranded
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheaterNinjas
Contact: Ray Caspio, Theater Ninjas’ Associate Artistic Director, rcaspio@theaterninjas.com

Both Mamaí Theatre Company and Theater Ninjas are proud to partner with the Gay Games to make them a success! Use discount code CLEARTS to save $30 on the general registration fee.

Learn more about the Games at www.GG9CLE.com.