Thursday, August 27, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Endless Air, Endless Water at the Flamboyan Theater (at the Clemente) by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Endless Air, Endless Water at the Flamboyan Theater (in the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center) was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Endless Air, Endless Water
A Play by Robert Shaffron
Directed by Michael Damico
Scenic Design by Rory Mulholland
Costume Design by Karen Boyer
Flamboyan Theater (at the Clemente)
107 Suffolk Street
New York, New York 10002
Reviewed 8/24/15 

Endless Air, Endless Water by Robert Shaffron was originally a one-act play that participated in the Manhattan Class Company's 6th Annual Class One-Acts Festival in 1994. The work was later taken on as a project of The Blue Comet Company ( where it was revitalized, and reimagined. James David Adelman, who is the Artistic Director of Blue Comet, plays Fred, the veteran astronaut on lunar mission Zodiac 1. Patrick Judd, who is Chief Executive Officer of Blue Comet, plays Ditch, a bright, young, media savvy upstart on his first mission. Michael Damico, the Director, was primarily responsible for changing the tone and message of the play from what it originally was (according to David Richards of The New York Times, "a dopey sketch...where the astronauts are hoisted off their feet by wires and dangle helplessly in space") to one that is relevant today. It raises the important question of whether America is ready to acknowledge and celebrate gay heroes. The play is still set in 1994 but in an alternative universe where many lunar missions have already placed advanced life support and terraforming equipment on the moon to the point where a team of astronauts could stay and live there indefinitely. They would have access to endless air and endless water, in part due to an advanced pee conversion system. Hence, the name of the play.

The set for Endless Air, Endless Water, designed by Rory Mulholland, is realistic and a masterpiece. The costume design by Karen Boyer is equally impressive. All of the actors in this production were top-notch and extremely enjoyable to watch, whether we liked their characters or not. Deon Frank, as Les, the homophobic, name-calling, Mission Control specialist we see on screen (who actually received a kidney from Fred) was absolutely hateful (he even checked with his doctor to see if receiving a kidney from a gay man could cause him problems). There is no doubt, though, that he nailed his role, as did Piper Rae Patterson, as Sheila, Ditch's fiancee. She suspected her bow wasn't straight but fully intended to marry him anyway, for her own purposes. James David Adelman (Fred) and Patrick Judd (Ditch) are both two fine actors, but I didn't feel they had the chemistry to sell the complicated relationship we were exposed to in the Zodiac capsule.  

Fred is not open about his sexuality at work. He was President of his debate team and got married, but is now divorced. Ditch is a young, charismatic guy who was Captain of his High School football team. On liftoff, Ditch supposedly tells Fred he loves him (I didn't hear that over all the noise). Is this hero worship? A confession in the face of possible death? Or an expression of his true feelings? Fred gives Ditch his souvenir moon rock and some flirting ensues (Fred says to Ditch, "Good night my sweet Prince," and Ditch tells Fred, "You are not authorized to imagine my little tingle, Space Trash!") but when Ditch proposes to Sheila in a broadcast from space, Fred gets upset and angry. Ditch tries to explain he is getting married and has an agent in order to advance his career, but Fred believes he has been lied to and encourages Ditch to be "in the moment." Ditch doesn't want to be labeled ("If you label me, you negate me") but in order to show Fred his feelings for him are real, says "Oh my sweet baby Jesus. You want to see now, I'll show you now!". He then pulls Fred close and kisses him, said kiss which is accidentally caught on national television.

Space Control cuts them off with no communication for 18 hours. Fred reflects, "This is just like the boys in the locker room. No difference. Nothing changes." When Les comes back, he spews hateful epithets, calling them faggots and asking them to pray with him to reject their perversity. Les also says he wants them to read a statement to the effect that they were part of a "gay space chimp-like experiment" where the company always knew they were gay and that they were part of an experiment testing the effect of space on resistant homosexual hormones. Unexpectedly, the reaction of the public to the gay astronauts is positive and the kiss is featured on the cover of many magazines ("Love Among The Stars"). Fred doesn't wish to be famous at all and certainly not as an oddity and refuses to make any statements. He suggests he and Ditch just go to the moon and stay there indefinitely, but Ditch tells Fred he is a hero to him and that in his book "heroes don't run away." He asks Fred to trust him and to turn over control of the ship, which he had taken away from Mission Control. Ditch, a moral relativist, who believes "perception is reality" and "what seems is more important than what is", agrees to make a statement on national television and does. To find out what he says, you will need to see the play.

Endless Air, Endless Water is a work in progress. There needs to be a further development of the motivations of the characters and some additional updating of the material. There is great potential here and this current production was entertaining and enjoyable. In fact, it was astronomic! If you want to contribute to the advancement of this project, visit The Blue Comet Company's current Indiegogo Campaign at 

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