Spotlight: The Strong and Capable Shoulders of the Student When He Dreams

Rich Barlow

The famed Swiss-German comedian and motivational speaker C.G. Jung once remarked that, "in the secret hour of life's midday the parabola is reversed, death is born." In other words, buster, you're either on the uphill slope or you're on the way down. Writer and director Jim Bovino's latest work for Flaneur Productions is an extended meditation on this subject, positing all the infinite possibility and meaning of youth against the disillusionment and creeping sense of oblivion that follows. The show is dark, and I mean that literally--the hall is spookily lit for much of the action, which ostensibly deals with a student played by Don Mabley-Allen and his travails at a school for the blind. Cherri Macht is glacially imposing as his professor, laying out hard elliptical lessons as the bewildered Mabley-Allen grasps in vain for the once-certain outlines of his existence. Charles Campbell plays a man lost from the start, holding his head in his hands in the front row while the audience files in, then engaging Barbara Meyer in a frantic dialogue about salvaging meaning through erudition (Meyer starts the play with a haunting turn standing in a bucket reciting a monologue about lost memories and hopeful beginnings). Bovino himself plays the school's director and spends the show perched at a desk about 20 feet over the stage, lost in meditation and waiting for his moment to intervene. When he does...well, you'll have to interpret things for yourself. Suffice it to say that the existential options from which to choose are stark and none too reassuring. This is a challenging and oddly entertaining work, and the issues it deals with are (for me, anyway) of crucial import: How distinctive and original is one's life, and how far can our illusions take us before their erosion leaves us adrift? Bovino has come up with a very fine piece of writing, and the cast plays it out with assured awareness. It is undeniably uncomfortable to be confronted with the meaningless void behind youthful optimism, and the hollow skeleton left behind when life's ambitions don't play out as planned. It is called, unfortunately, reality.

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