It doesn’t get much better then the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Being a huge fan of Off-Broadway fare, I frequent and champion all those theaters ‘downtown’ and the chances they take at 224 Waverly Place; the subject matters, the actors, set designs, and writers really create some of the liveliest theater I have ever seen.
The play in question, the world premier of Annie Baker’s The Aliens, a “white-dude play different then other white-dude plays” she says, is a three person, one set laconic lament on the merits of Bukowski, drugs, writing and friendship during a few weeks one summer in Shirley, Vermont. Michael Chernus as KJ, Dane Dehaan as Evan and Erin Gann’s jumpy Jasper, skittle down fences, lay on tables, sing goofy hippie tunes and generally visit each other’s orbits as they slowly open up to the real reasons they are here. What I especially liked about The Aliens is the ideas Baker throws around but never overly dwells on. It’s a funny play mostly, at least the first act as Dehaan’s perfectly nervous Evans becomes indoctrinated into the world of the two older, ‘economically challenged’ ‘artistically aching’ friends who hang-out at the back of a neighborhood coffee shop. Poignancy amps-up, especially around Chernus’s performance, where he executes what might be one of the richest turns in theater I have seen in a very long time, simply by repeating one word.
Bart Fasbender’s set design is to be commended on as well. Don’t miss The Aliens concluding Rattesticks’ 15th Anniversary Season, running now ’til 5/23. Get tickets at www.smarttix.com