Naomi Iizukas’s Language of Angels
Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center
Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday
Language of Angels by Naomi Iizuka, now at the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, is a fascinating, intense hour and a half of drama.
The action begins with a wild high school drinking party in a cave. Scenic designer Nicolas Graves has created a massive, menacing blue-tinged, graffitied wall. With a carefully orchestrated series of alternating fast and slow stop-motion moments, director Adam Noble set us up for a skillful production of a play that’s always flirting with time.
As the party scene ends, music almost loud enough to cause pain, everything stops. JB (Colin Van Wye), now with a sheriff’s badge of authority, calmly tells about the party, the disappearance of wild girl Celie (Stephanie Cohen), and the sad histories of the kids.
Celie’s boyfriend Seth (Kurt Semmler) relates how a person can get lost in the caves. Later we learn that he disappeared from town. The sheriff hints that he may have been her grief-stricken murderer, but we know that it was different.
A few years later, at another smaller gathering in the cave, Alison (Courtney Lucien) and Danielle (Anna Rose Heyman) have picked up a stranger, Michael (Adrian Burks). Allison is now a waitress. Danielle, who dreamed of being a nurse, is an exotic dancer. There’s a lot of talk from Michael of Las Vegas and starry nights. The scene runs long, and I begin to wonder if he is supposed to be an archangel, but that doesn’t seem to develop.
Tension builds when Billy arrives (Kyle Hendricks), Allison’s testosterone-driven boyfriend. In typical fashion for this play, Billy’s wild, suicidal ride, following his killing of Michael, comes before the ironically prolonged lead-up to the actual shooting. Alison’s later death in a car crash is just a split-second flash of light, with the crunching sound of the impact.
Behind The Scenes
The technical aspects of Language of Angels are well-handled. Amanda Wray and Juliana Jones’ lighting ranges from full white through colors, spots and the special red light moments support and punctuate. Equally integral is the sound design of John Allerheiligen, which includes music for dancing, for thinking, heart beats, industrial sounds and thunder crashes.
For the final scene, Nicolas Graves’ cave set splits and Danielle’s trailer kitchenette rolls into view. Sheriff JB arrives and, during a conversation that seems to wander, a lot of things are wrapped up. There is the sound of a rain storm with lightning flashes. The sound of a mysterious shot gun blast reminds us of the hunting accident death of one of the partiers.
There are three sets of knocks on the trailer’s door. The first knocks signal a visit from sheriff JB. The second may be from the devil and the third…well, I just have to let you guess.