By Zachary Miceli; Directed by Mimi Barcomi
Produced by Imperfect Speakers
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play with Music
Runs through 8.26.16
VENUE #15: SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street
by Ran Xia on 8.17.16
Sekou Luke and Ian Palmer in The Topography Between (a New York radio love song). Photo by Mimi Barcomi.
BOTTOM LINE: A surreal and tantalizing love story rooted in an authentic and unique experience of New York City.
The Topography Between is an elaborate love letter to what we know as the City. It’s a play where words tingle in intimate places and secrets flow like an underground current. The play begins with juxtaposed monologues of its two central characters, Rodney (Sekou Luke) and Callisto (Ian Palmer), whose love becomes the blood flow of the story. Their impressions of the city, each coming from a unique point of view, invite the audience into a journey across the topography of the land. Their words intrigue like a cocktail of Frank O’Hara and Langston Hughes.
The plot unfolds around the lovers like a tapestry: as Callisto despairs in a city clinic, waiting for his HIV test results, Rodney sinks into nightmares in a jail cell, confined within the walls of central booking. We soon discover the history of their love story, and their intensity of yearning for each other across the cityscape. Their personal stories also seep through the cracks between conversations with strangers. We follow the journey of the heroes as if picking up puzzle pieces in the sand, each piece singular yet essential to the completion of the whole picture, which we eventually see: an exceptionally detailed collage that makes beauty out of scar tissues, a melody composed with regrets of the past, pains of the present, and hopes of the yet to come.
Director Mimi Barcomi masterfully exhibits the beauty of simplicity. In act one, two identical rows of chairs create two drastically different spaces, allowing simultaneous plotlines to intertwine with one another seamlessly. The openness and straightforwardness form a stark contrast with the extraordinary conflicts between the characters as well as within each character themselves. If act one is straight, parallel lines, then act two is circles. The tensions between Callisto and his old Priest (Ian Blom), as well as between Rodney and his ex-wife Mara (Therese Dizon), are palpable. Each pair circles around one another in confusion and uncertainty.
The cast here is stellar. Luke’s portrayal of Rodney is definitely one of the highlights of the production. Witnessing the journey of a character whose emotions break through the limitation of the space, and capture the soul of the tale, is truly an authentic experience. The scenes between Rodney and Jay, a stranger Rodney meets in jail played by the equally talented Sydney Afriye, are most captivating. Therese Dizon brings a kind of controlled desperation into Mara, tapping into the complexity of this character. Dizon also plays Jiang, the mysterious stranger who befriends Callisto at the clinic. The scenes between those two bring lightness into a supposedly heavy situation, which make the outcomes exponentially more devastating.
The language of the play by itself stands out to the test of scrutiny. Playwright Zachary Miceli has a way with words, which he uses to effortlessly pull the audience into the universe of the play. And it is more than just his words—his style might be described as provocative, tantalizing, and even positively delicious. With some trimming, the play will soar and throw even more powerful punches than it already does. There is also a live band behind the backdrop. Much like the torrents underneath a calm surface, the soundscape created by live performers enriches the plot. The Topography Between brings together a tantalizing love story with elements of reality that are relevant in the present moment. It's a story worth telling, and a refined production that needs to be witnessed.
(The Topography Between (a New York radio love song) plays at VENUE #15: SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, through August 26, 2016. The running time is 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission. Performances are Sun 8/14 at 2:30; Tue 8/16 at 4:15; Fri 8/19 at 2; Sun 8/21 at 9; and Fri 8/26 at 9:15. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit mimibarcomi.zohosites.com/the-topography-between.html.)
The Topography Between (a New York radio love song) is written by Zachary Miceli. Director is Mimi Barcomi. Producer is Reginald Van Lee. Lighting Design is by Heidi Fink. Production Manager is Morgan Stevenson. Musical Director is Mark Oleszko.
The cast is Sydney Afriye, Ian Blom, Therese Dizon, Sekou Luke, and Ian Palmer. The band is Mark Oleszko, Yanece Cotto, Francisco D’Ferreiro, and Jordan Robinson.