By Lisi DeHaas; Directed by Jay Stull
Produced by APT 10C Productions and Kindling Theater Company
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 4.11.15
The Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson St.
by Keith Paul Medelis on 4.1.15
Oscar A.L. Cabrera, Charlotte Booker, and Emma Meltzer in Leave Me Green. Photo by Russ Rowland.
BOTTOM LINE: Lisi DeHaas’s script includes poignant and exciting moments, despite some unfortunate clunkiness in the production.
The Gym at Judson is such a neat space. Making no apologies for it’s gym-ness, we get to see all but basketball hoops on the white-washed, cinderblock walls. The potential is limitless. Lisi DeHaas’ Leave Me Green opened recently here. It’s an interesting frame for a story. It seems that one half of a two-mother-helmed relationship has recently passed away. Rebecca Green (played by Charlotte Booker), the remaining matriarch, is a washed-up actor turned real estate agent with a long history of alcohol abuse and a complicated, strained relationship with her son Gustavo (Oscar A.L. Cabrera.) And there’s another sticky situation happening just next door with the loud-record-playing tendencies of eccentric neighbor Myron (played adeptly by Michael Gaines.) We can sense that his strange presence here will have some payoff, and indeed it does.
Gus attends his first Al-A-Teen meeting- for young people affected by their parents' drinking. Judging by the mood, mouse-bitten cookies, and open seats, not many ever attend this thing, save for Lia (Emma Meltzer). In a perhaps noticeable plotline, the two begin dating. At an awkward dinner date, wherein Gus introduces Lia to his mother, he also helps himself to wine just to get himself through. Some unexpected turns soon follow, which can’t spoiled here.
Sadly, I find something not quite lived-in enough about Leave Me Green. Booker, as the grieving, conflicted, alcoholic mother, comes across as, well, a bit normal. And while Cabrera’s Gustavo finds much more color and depth, his interactions with his mother and Lia tend to border on forced.
I’m afraid there are also some complications with DeHaas’ script. With it’s peculiarly challenging filmic nature and five distinct locations it’s not easy to get away with beautiful theatrical tricks. Jay Stull’s direction makes the most of this by having us see characters in their offstage moments, thinly illuminated and more-or-less frozen. It’s a solid way to move through this difficult terrain.
I found myself a little lost for placement amongst Jessica Parks' set. There’s mention of selling real estate in Tribeca on the background of some solidly suburban digs. And our foreground, a large swath of Astroturf, isn’t quite carpet enough to behave as the floor of a dingy church basement, yet far too carpet-like to match the beauty of DeHaas’ final nostalgic scene. I heard an audience member comment on the way out, “I wish my apartment was that size.”
Nicholas Houfek's lighting and Jeanne Travis' sound design concoct some really successful environments here, taking advantage of the Gym’s expansive space and immersing us in the sounds of sizzling (and burning) onions, and a myriad of sounds from records on turntables. Travis’ most exciting moment comes as she propels us forward into a passionate make-out scene with some thumping, explosive instrumental music. It links two disparate worlds in a way I wish could be found throughout DeHaas’ play.
I was happy to find solace at the end of Leave Me Green. In a tidy package, the world seems to have righted itself. Despite the crazy past and uncertain future, this created family will make and remake itself. It’s a powerful statement of queer families everywhere. We make our own rules, our own problems, and we trust it’ll all turn out all right, like Leave Me Green itself, unevenness and all. There's an offering of an important voice and strong message here. Check it out.
(Leave Me Green plays at The Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson Street, through April 11, 2015. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8PM; there are no performances Friday April 3 and Saturday April 4. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased here. For more information visit facebook.com/leavemegreen.)