The Lightning Field
nytheatre.com review by Kevin Connell
August 13, 2005
The Lightning Field (1977) is an art installation by the American sculptor Walter De Maria. It is a work of Land Art situated in the high desert of southwestern New Mexico comprised of 400 polished stainless steel poles installed in a grid measuring one mile by one kilometer. The Field is more than an invitation for lightning strikes, more than a piece of art, it is destination for lost souls in search of an improbable stroke of fortune.
The Lightning Field is also the inspiration for David Ozanich’s new play, which is a must see! at the New York International Fringe Festival and certainly deserves an extended theatrical life. Ozanich is a daring writer, eager to give voice to the brewing storm churning inside his characters. His writing is complex without relying on sentimentality. He articulates, with skill and maturity, an ugliness in human nature that is beautifully dangerous and painfully honest.
Ozanich’s story is told through the lives of four characters, two lovers and two parents. His play delves into issues of divorce, infidelity, physical abuse, and the merits of marriage and commitment. It happens to be told through the eyes of a gay couple and two of their divorced parents. On a pilgrimage in a car, going west to understand yesterday and find tomorrow, Sam and his father Gerrit, and Andy and his mother Lori, ultimately arrive at The Lightning Field where Sam’s desire to propose marriage to Andy bolts the play into action. It is here that we discover the complexity of Lori and Gerrit’s failings in marriage and as parents, and their effects on their children. It is here that we witness their efforts to save and protect Sam and Andy from repeating the regretful mistakes of their own pasts. And it is here that all four characters choose to embrace the light of a newly redefined love, in spite of the pain of secrets revealed and the uncertainty of the next moment.
Jared Coseglia’s direction has finessed Ozanich’s play with a raw sense of compassion and risk taking. Without apology he delves into the play's emotional life and graphic physical and sexual expression. He trusts the simplicity of stillness on stage and the economic effect of each gesture. I credit Coseglia’s direction for the depth, integrity and honesty of each of the four performances and for the seamless integration of the production’s design elements.
H Clark and Cory Grant give generous and revealing performances as Sam and Andy. They both avoid the clichés of “playing gay” that could have diminished the depth of their characters' wants and needs. But both play men that I know and recognize—maybe even are parts of myself, and my friends—and with respect to that, they are more universal than the labels of their sexual identities, making this play identifiable to a broad contemporary audience.
As Lori and Gerrit, Bekka Lindström and Ron McClary are moving as the mid-to-late-40something parents. Their performances are responsible for bringing hope into a production about second chances.
Paul Hudson’s scenic and lighting designs effectively rely on the boldness of a lone silver pole center stage with moving shadows of light diminishing as the hours approach the ghosts of night. Amanda Ford’s costumes capture with accuracy each character’s personality without looking theatrical. And Drew Brody’s original music moves like the wind through the psychological and spiritual bones of this tale.
This is smart and responsible theatre. It deserves to be seen. It deserves to be recognized.