Quantum’s production of Plano, by Will Arbery is a triumphant onion of a play filled with time-tripping, unmet expectations, razor-sharp dialogue, and incredible visual performances from the cast and set alike. It is a precarious juggling act that was fascinating to experience and left its audience mesmerized in its whirlwind.
Reviewed by MAC Hoover
“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” – Carl Jung
Plano is filled with witty dialogue and thinly veiled religious undertones involving three independent yet codependent sisters, Anne, Isabel and Genevieve, each with their own angst and needs. This trinity of sisterhood is the glue that binds them. While at the same time the dichotomy of their male partnership both provides them with solace and anxiety.
Their male partners, some of whom are imaginary, are flawed. They surrealistically split into other personas that drift in and out of the collective narrative. They are less balanced than the triumvirate they inhabit. Their characters’ essence is more physical, all portrayed as sexually ambiguous. The men are a source of discussion and consternation as Mary, the sisters mother, later likens the hearts of men to “naked baby rats.”The women interact with the men; around them, with them, and perhaps through them.Even a faceless ghost gets in on the action when the music changes from an all-female vocal repertoire to one song sung by a male.
This woman-centric show is a tilt-a-whirl of a play for sure. In true biblical style, there are plagues (slugs), infidelity, procreation, sickness, and more resurrection and spirits than one would think possible in a one-act performance. But as the play suggests, “having a family is a haunting.”
Late in the play, when their Mama arrives, she fixes nothing but shines a spotlight on the loop that is their lives.
Of the sisters, Mary is the essence of their dysfunction, which she learned it at the feet of HER mother and philandering father. The cycle continues with ebbs and flows like the ethereal red ribbon that is woven through the dialogue like a bloody river.
The play is set on Genevieve’s front porch; a place of solace, a safe home base for the three sisters.Plano is the undefined other place that is neither heaven nor hell, but the place the others seem to go. Solace or not, the porch is also a portal to another fresh hell.
Despite themselves, the women are trapped in themselves and crumble and falter. They also collectively find strength in their weakness and support each other in this wormhole that clouds their memories and mixes with their nightmares.
The characters dance and feed off of each other. They are the essence of a trinity, and Mama affirms that. She has them together in her metaphorical box, and they will not likely ever be far apart.
This is a dark, thought-provoking comedy, and it’s worth the carnival ride.
The talent both on stage and behind the scenes is impressive indeed.
Lisa Velten Smith (Anne) is outstanding as the self-doubting, intellectual, insecure, slug-infested older sister who has married a man of questionable intentions.
Julianne Avolio (Genevieve) is the antsy, artistic curator of the porch who seems to have the most conventional life. Her invisible children and the dissolution of her marriage and reality are expressed in righteous rage,
Moira Quigley (Isabel) is almost luminous as the Uber religious, hypochondriac youngest sister, torn between her piety, a need to be of service, and her real vs. imaginary health and lover.
Cary Anne Spear (Mama) balances the love-hate relationships with her daughters deftly.
Tim McGeever (Steve), Jerreme Rodriguez (Juan/John) flip seamlessly back and forth between the many and complex perceptions of their characters.
The set by Stephanie Mayer-Staley is in and of itself is an integral cast member. The porch is always here. The triangular proscenium continues to allude to the trinity. The porch and its surroundings skillfully change and breathe along with the flow of the dialogue.
The design elements are masterfully integrated, with lighting (Xotchil Musser) projections (Cat Wilson) and sound (Aaron Landgraf), all merging to provide an augmented backdrop to the performance.
Bakery Square’s blank industrial space was transformed seamlessly into an essential part of the performance. No detail was spared, and the finale was a visual treat. Well done indeed.
This was a riveting performance of a quirky play that one could easily get lost in all the rapid dialogue. Director Adil Mansor skillfully handled it to bring the playwright’s words to a delighted audience.
For more information and tickets for Quantum Theatre’s production of Plano visit https://www.quantumtheatre.com/plano/