Review by: Tom Mackan
Readers, we have here a true work of art. I’m reasonably certain that the line-ups for “Here”, Writer/Director Aaron Jan’s intricate tale of love and betrayal among latter day Bohemians in the undergraduate world of twenty-somethings in film and theatre studies in the GHA will be long. Already a growing legend among the youthful writers among us, Jan has a highly deserved following. This production will only polish his star more brightly. Like his contemporaries producing in this Fringe 2013, including Samuel Chang and Michael Kras, he is a deep mine of creative writing talent and has a healthy command of theatre and its skills. He is similarly able to attract some of the best acting, choreographic, and technical talent in the area.
Begin with the performances. Jacqueline Byers takes her role as troubled and damaged Emily and finds the elemental truth of the character. Byers is never at a loss for the shade of light, the depth of darkness, the variety in delivery, voice, and timing that will carry us along on her journey. And such a journey she must take. For this, we must consider the antagonistic relationship she has with her close friend in their emerging dancing careers, Heather. Felled by injury, Emily is unable to nourish her burgeoning future and she needs Heather’s strong friendship if she is to recover. Played with startlingly steely accuracy by Jessie Cox, Heather has not enough warmth of character to sustain a damaged friend, and Cox is marvelous in her exploration of the treachery required of Heather to justify her needy selfishness and eventual abandoning and awful betrayal of Emily. Writer Jan’s creation of the character Ken sets up a theatrical triangle that has nothing to offer Emily. Jan brings to bear a deadly weapon in the actor Gregory Solomon, and dear Readers, we must experience Solomon’s performance to appreciate the single-mindedness of the self-promoter, the cruel charm of the winner male using one female as his weapon to attract another. It is a superb gem of acting and deserves to be seen to understand how an actor lives inside a character so much that he just is the character. Solomon knows Ken and Solomon speaks with his voice, thinks on his feet as if born to the role.
In the unfolding of the plot, we meet Esther, a University alumna who takes us to a time before the action and in a clever devising, brings the conflicts to a resolution of sorts through her story. Esther is played with stoic discipline by Erica Charles who understands that the vitality of the play’s rhythm is well-served without demonstration. She keeps her presence in steady stillness and emotional restraint. Very good stuff. In a smaller role, Farhang Ghajar knits the details of connection required of minor characters so well. His kind of gift is any director’s choice when much is required of a supporting role. Again, terrific.
Were this a professional company, Aaron Jan’s budget for his creative team would be skyward. Producers Devin France (one fine actor himself in another life) and Evan Mulrooney have assembled a Swiss Bank Account of talent. Costume design by Annie Capretta and Emma Price, lighting design by James Mccoy, choreography by Cassandra Bowerman (herself a prominent dancing talent in another life), and set design by Nigel d’souza.The team includes a composer (Jake Butineau), a sculptor (John McGowan), a photographer (Hayley Pace), and video design by Nick Tiringer. The whole is stage managed with huge competence by Ndola Hutton.
In my secret life as an undercover critic I find sometimes the need to criticize. I see a credit for a dramaturge, Lucy Powis. Let me address this insofar as I perceive the play to be long and burdened with much story. I perceive a situation where resolution stretches artistic credibility. Seeing that dramaturgy is available I commend the company, and recommend they continue with this and explore the maze of economic possibilities in bringing real perfection to a work of art, true art. For that is what this is. Get out, dear Readers, to see this production. Citadel upstairs theatre. Tell them I sent you.