Explore Lights Narrow in greater depth on Indie Theater Now.
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 11, 2013
If you are seeking a theatrical work that probes some of the most fundamental and profound questions that plague humankind, then Vincent Marano's offering in FringeNYC 2013, Lights Narrow, is for you. Seldom does drama tackle the issues of the soul and salvation, the existence of heaven and hell, and what happens to us when we die; on the rare occasions when it does, it is usually more in the realm of speculative fiction than on the almost wholly spiritual terms that Marano confines himself to. The result is a piercing, surprisingly intimate play that raises many questions and unsettles, even as it attempts to resolve some of the eternal conflicts at its center.
The opening moments of Lights Narrow depict the death of one of its two characters, a rowdy, difficult fellow named Elgin. The lights go down and then resume; Elgin is now in some undefined place (the program helpfully defines it as "Somewhere nearby...or not") where another man, Stanton, is preparing to take charge of him. Stanton is in communication (via a cellphone whose ringtone is a majestic piece of music, Copland I think) with someone named Michael who is apparently his boss. (Yeah, it's probably THAT Michael, and yeah, we're probably somewhere outside the Pearly Gates; but that's subject to interpretation, ultimately.)
In any event, Stanton is reluctant to have to deal with Elgin, but he needs to follow orders. So what transpires over the next 40 minutes or so is a conversation between these two men designed to get at least one of them ready for what's next. Events from Elgin's life—especially the moments just before his untimely and accidental demise—are reviewed. Notions of Elgin's worth (or worthiness), in terms of his actions, his intentions, and his relationships on earth, are examined. Acceptance is revealed to be a key to completion of the cycle.
Lights Narrow traffics in theology and philosophy and precepts of Christianity and other religions, but I don't think it's finally a religious play so much as simply a human one. Marano says he wrote the piece when he began pondering whether his late mother would wind up in the same place as his late father after her death. He explores here a process of becoming more than a final arrival anywhere, reflecting on what constitutes a life well lived and a soul ready for redemption.
The second part of the play offers a series of twists that lend both weight and surprise. Obviously I can say no more.
Lights Narrow is tightly directed by DeLisa White on a simple, spare (uncredited) set that works quite beautifully for the material. The actors, Ridley Parson as Elgin and James Edward Becton as Stanton, do excellent work; indeed, the script offers its two players splendid opportunities to show off their versatility thanks to the surprises it includes. This is thoughtful, meaningful fare, the kind of show I love to see in a festival like this because it's being produced only because its creators have something urgent and important that they wish to share with their audience. Give Marano and his collaborators a listen.