Vicinity (Memoryall) opened quietly this weekend at 18th and Union. This seems appropriate for a play, written by Cristine Deavel and J.W. Marshall and directed by Meleesa Wyatt, that focuses on the subtle, psychological effects of living in a world of constant violence.
The narrative follows friends Del (Jasmine Lomax) and Lee (Bill Johns) as they wander lost through a city in which they have spent their entire lives. While the city itself goes unnamed, this frustration should strike a chord with any longtime resident of Seattle, a fact which adds to the pertinence of the show’s themes. They’re looking for a memorial, but despite the help of Google Maps and various pedestrians (all played by Mariah Lee Squires), they seem to find every other memorial in the neighbourhood instead. Their ongoing conversation on the nature of violence, grief, and memorial, is broken up by the commentary of the narrator, Clare (Cecelia Frye). Frye’s tall stature, accentuated by the long skirt and cardigan she wears, sets her up perfectly for the whimsical character she plays. She details a series of sincere, if slightly off-beat, personal anecdotes, whose moral centers are either directly stated or later connected to Del and Lee’s journey.
While the acting is solid, and the Parmida Ziaei’s scenic design and Zanna King’s lighting manage to do quite a lot with very little, the poignancy of the script is undercut by the fact that it forces Lomax and Johns to attempt to re-inject life into the same two conversations throughout the 85 minute production. The majority of the dialogue is either bickering about directions or discussing the appropriate emotional response to a memorial, which became tedious around the hour mark (a fact not helped by the lack of an intermission). Even the dramatic reveal of the source of the memorial for which they’re looking, delivered in an impressive, emotional monologue by Frye, was given an unnecessary, equally impressive, second exposition by Johns mere minutes later. The production valiantly attempts to address an under-recognized aspect of our modern world, but unfortunately the cyclical, repetitious nature of the script robs the audience of the potential emotional impact. Much like actually being lost for an hour and a half, this reviewer found that the longer she spent not being able to find her location, the less she cared about finding it.
Vicinity runs through July 7th at 18th and Union (1406 18th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122). Tickets and more info available here.