Author: Henry Murray
At: Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland St. Tickets: Exit63Theatre.com; $15. Runs through: Sept. 2
It's not hard to see what drew Exit 63 Theatre and director Connor Baty to stage Treefall; it's a dynamic premise from author Henry Murray. It's simple and it sticks with you long after you've left the theater. All Treefall needs is a little more precision and deliberateness in execution to keep audiences ensnared in their bitter landscape.
In Treefall's wasteland future, Earth is being fried by an unforgiving sun, and what little people have survived are scrounging for scarce water and supplies under cover of darkness. To go out in the daylight is dangerous, maybe fatal. Three boysFlynn ( Andrew Garcia ), August ( Shea Petersen ) and Craig ( Matt Schutz )have been alone in their cabin for so long, they've resorted to mimicking ( and revering ) a nuclear family unit. When they encounter Bug ( Kirra Silver ), they have the chance to propagate their dysfunctional society, or abandon it. They could cling to the idea that the world will go back to normal, or venture out into their undeniable reality.
Deep down, Treefall is about social hierarchy, and what we cling to when everything else evaporates. The boys may not have food, but they have outmoded gender roles, and they don't need anyone to force masculinity/femininity upon them, they'll do it themselves. While Flynn easily dons a necktie and air of authority to portray a father figure, August struggles to keep his composure in what limited expression range a wig allows him as "Mommy." Craig plays their precocious child; not only that, he'll take up a baby doll and play his own best friend, love interest, elderly nursemaid, and hopefully someday, mommy herself. There's abuse and disenfranchisement, and it becomes only too visible when they invite newcomer, Bug, to join in.
Treefall falters over clarity and some basic safety precautions for performers interacting with the set. Their world of festering grime should be palpable, but not at the expense of actor mobility needs. Some stage elements are fantastic to look at, but seem guaranteed to cause injury. Likewise, I was waiting for the oppressive sun to leak in somehow, just to confirm how potent the danger their world is in.
The cast, however, is unflappable as they fight on the most intimate stage. Andrew Garcia is firm, frightening and committed to the status quo as Flynn, and Shea Petersen is a tight-wound bundle of torments threatening to unravel, as August. Kirra Silver's Bug is the someone better equipped that the others have all been unconsciously waiting for, sapped of hope. Matt Schutz spends much of the show in dialogue with himself as Craig, and it's a resounding joy to watch. Treefall is compelling, strangeand worth a glimpse before it's gone.