South Beach Rapture
nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
August 15, 2010
David Caudle's South Beach Rapture brushes upon some interesting ideas about synchronicity and what it was like to live in this country right after 9/11. Unfortunately this is counteracted by the inherent unlikability of the play's characters and the formulaic, stilted nature of the script and direction.
It's November of 2001. Cynthia, an attractive young woman, is drunkenly sleeping by the ocean. Felipe, a muscular young man, approaches her. Enter Albert, a bookish middle-aged man, who also moves towards Cynthia. She wakes and the strangers meet, three lone (and lonely) people on a beach, waiting to see the Leonid Meteor Shower. Albert clearly wants Cynthia. She is very hot-and-cold towards him. Albert is wary of Felipe. Felipe is drawn to Cynthia, though not for the reasons we suspect.
Approximately every five minutes Cynthia blows up at Albert (or occasionally vice versa). They make up and then continue getting more and more intimate with one another. Felipe wanders in and out of the action. They speak to each other much more openly than any strangers would and one wonders why they stay and talk to each other for so long. Perhaps it's loneliness and wanting to watch the meteors, but it feels more like a contrived device to propel the piece. They are all clearly waiting for something, but it becomes less clear as to whether that something is the meteor shower or the Rapture (when the dead and living will supposedly join, in the sky, with Christ).
Bobby Moreno, a terrific actor, is full of energy and life as Felipe, capable of switching from deep spiritualism and openness to manic intensity at the drop of a hat. Amelia Jean Alvarez and John G. Preston, as Cynthia and Albert, have very little chemistry together, though the play hinges on the two characters coming on to each other. Charlie Corcoran's set design is miraculous for FringeNYC (where set-up time and storage space are very limited)—a realistic life guard's chair adorns the stage, a shag carpet representing sand covers the entire stage, and a large boulder completes the beach scene. Yet, most of the action takes place with the characters sitting on the ground (making it often difficult to see) and the set, though ambitious in scope, is underused. Caudle's script has some interesting moments, but there is no clear arc and very little action and what action there is often seems unjustified. Michelle Bossy's direction is clean and professional, but there is nothing that engages us in the story.