Maren Ward and Emily Zimmer.
Photo by Larry Lamb
Open Eye and Bedlam Theatre share plenty in common, and the mixed DNA of To The Moon
showcases the talents of both companies.
Director Michael Sommers (Open Eye), playwright Josef Evans, and lead performer Maren Ward (the latter two both with Bedlam) forge something special here, from the ghostly pair of shoes that cross the stage at the beginning to the final moments of Ward, alone onstage, quietly realizing the depths the characters has reached.
Using The Honeymooners as inspiration, To The Moon employs physical comedy to buttress a story about the ongoing ramifications of a past tragic event. Ward doesn't just channel Jackie Gleason, she takes the actor and character and molds them into a new creature, one where self-doubt and a burning desire to escape are just beneath the surface.
Throughout the show, Jackie (as he's called in this version) is hell-bent on raising himself beyond being a simple bus driver. He has plans to join a rather ominous-sounding group. He, naturally, ropes best-friend Ed Norton into this, though the limber-legged sewer worker seems distracted.
There's a reason for that. Ed and his wife know that Alice is returning from months away after an unspoken (but not too hard to work out) incident altered the relationship.
All of this gets played out over a trio of "episodes," with a heady mixture of broad comedy and piercing tragedy. It shouldn't work, but the script finds a good balance between the two tones, while the quartet of actors take their characters and the situations by the horns.
Kimberly Richardson's loose-limbed Ed Norton comes along with comic effect, though even he is wary of where Jackie is going. Emily Zimmer gives housewife Trixie a deeper soul, while Annie Enneking plays Alice as a Greek force of nature, arriving back in Jackie's life for one final evening. The play is loaded with humor of all types, and the creative team pushes the tale to the edge of sanity and beyond.
This is an absurdist's sitcom, full of strange radio broadcasts, puppet rats, and a decrepit apartment that is as much a character as the four performers.
To The Moon
Open Eye Figure Theatre
506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis
Through March 10
For tickets and information, call 612-874-6338 or visit online.