What would you do if the apocalypse arrived tomorrow? Impossible Theater Company answers that question for four characters in their second production [missed connections]. The play is not scripted so much as explored by the four actors, Heather Carter, Ava Jackson, Artistic Director Nick Jonczak, and Alexandra Linn. They call it ‘devised theater,’ where eight months of improvisation led to the current script, which was still evolving on opening night and will be through every performance since parts will remain unscripted.
[missed connections] is a strong piece of theater and the actors are the ones who make it so, facing the end with dry wit, laughter, and neurosis that feel real and nuanced. This is not your blockbuster apocalypse, nor is this a mainstream play.
The action follows two roommates and two journalists whose lives bump into each other’s in a series of missed and made connections that the title refers to. ‘missed connections‘ is a section on Craigslist where you can post a message to someone you didn’t have the nerve to speak to in the moment. The idea is that if this was the end, we would stop doing that, letting those chances slip through our fingers. Each scene is roughly chronological but may or may not have a relationship to the one preceding it. Actors pop on and off sage, touching only on that key moment of connection, sometimes speaking for several minutes, sometimes dancing silently or sitting under a table for a few seconds before the next scene arrives.
The staging dramatizes these disjointed scenes that flash by well. What makes it work is the excellent lighting design by Joseph Walls, who turns an art gallery in Eastern Market into a stage for the end of the world. Sound Engineer Aaron Fisher completes the effect with authentic DC sounds mixed with haunting music and poetry that transitions each scene. Although I would argue with the idea that Metro will still be running if the world ends, they capture the flashing red and the repetitive admonitions to stand clear of closing doors perfectly. The costumes and sets are minimal and modern, fitting the story of these regular folks confronted with insane circumstances. Michael Ward (Set and Costume consulting), Elisabeth Rudin (Stage Manager), and Jocelyn Henjum (Production Manager) round out the production staff behind the scenes.
The venue, the art gallery The Fridge, makes for an intimate encounter. It is located at 516 ½ 8th street near the Eastern Market metro. That 516 ½ points to the fact that the gallery is in the middle of a block, literally, so keep your wits and a map about you as you head there and look out for a brightly painted building down an alley.
The minimal staging does not make for a minimalist story as the events of the larger world are beautifully brought to life. My favorite moment was the simple, effective and powerful ‘announcement’ of the apocalypse involving two journalists, which I will not give away.
This is not the big story of reconciliation between a father and daughter, but instead, the story of a daughter who does not even try to make it to Maine to see him because it is more likely she’d be stuck in New Jersey. Although I wished for the other story, I knew the one they explored was more real.
I can imagine that if we faced ‘the end’ we would be more likely to fold laundry, freak out, and continue to miss connections. The climax of [missed connections] is the most honest picture of humans falling apart that I have ever seen. It’s powerful and shattering and surprising.
In the end, does the apocalypse arrive? Do they finally find that connection and take the risk and not let it pass them by? I can’t tell you that! You’ll have to go and see.
In doing so, you’ll be supporting a fantastic group and a unique theater company that believes theater should be cheaper than a movie and that no one should pay credit card fees, which is why tickets are only (really) $10. The conviction behind this policy and this company comes from one of the actors, Artistic Director Nick Jonczak, and production manager Jocelyn Henium, who founded the company together. Last year’s critically acclaimed production of Macbeth launched them onto the DC theater scene and [missed connections] is a worthy follow up.
The mission statement of Impossible Theater Company quotes playwright Edward Albee: “Before we discover who we are, before we learn about each other, before we create who we want to be, we have to imagine the undiscovered, the unlearned, the uncreated, the inconceivable, the impossible.” I believe they have succeeded in their mission, to explore something so impossible as the end of all of us, even if, in that end, they’ve proved that we will probably still just be human.
Running Time: Approximately One hour and 40 minutes with no intermission.
[missed connections] plays through August 19, 2012 at The Fridge - 516 ½ 8th Street SE, in Washington, DC. It plays Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 7 p.m.; Sundays at 4 p.m; and Friday, August 17th at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Purchase tickets online.
Read Maria Rizkalla’s preview article on DC Metro Theater Arts.