Kara Manning’s play "afterdark" opened this past weekend at the Bloomington Playwrights Project. It’s in a nicely styled production directed by Sue Kim.
The setting is New York. It’s three months after September 11th. There’s the occasional left over shadow of the tragedy, but "afterdark" is about the lives and struggles that go on. Maria Dahman plays a single mother of a sixteen year old girl, Amanda Nesbitt, who’s just too much for her to handle. Mom has sent for the absentee Dad, Kevin Woodruff and he’s feeling guilty enough to come, but not guilty enough to take up his side parenting.
Tim Ryder plays a dying jazz drummer. The drummer is hanging onto the bits of his life even when Nick Simpson as Miles Davis’ ghost visits him with promises of a place in the great bebop combo in the sky.
Renee Reed plays a DJ who presides over the late night air waves. The DJ’s actively searching for the right music, and the right words for ongoing solace and consolation for listeners. There are a few more characters and plots, but you get the general idea of the pattern and the variety.
Playwright Kara Manning’s lines in "afterdark" can be as short as succinct as a single word or gesture, but in this show I especially enjoyed the speeches that went on. Sometimes, especially in the early going, there were too many words for the actors’ skill. But I enjoyed those ones that overflowed with references, with lists, with sly puns and even thumbnail summaries of culture.
Director Sue Kim with designer Chris Dadds, the dramatic lighting of Morgan Brenner and the nicely planned sound design of Rick Fonte has done a fine job with moving "afterdark" along through its series of mini scenes. The show is played without intermission in about an hour and a half.
I really like "afterdark." It’s touching and funny. The characters are well rounded and a pleasure to watch develop. Their stories intertwine in a harmonious and neatly worked out way. It’s full of rich and interesting speeches and so hip that the ghost of Miles Davis is a supporting character.
You can see his and other WFIU theatre, film and opera reviews on our web site at WFIU dot Indiana dot edu.
Kara Manning’s "afterdark" plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at eight and Sundays at two at the Bloomington Playwrights Project through the twenty-sixth.