“The Aliens,” by Obie Award-winning 31-year-old writer Annie Baker, is a play that insists on silence. New York Times critic Charles Isherwood invokes Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” as a comparison, for the parallel between the two plays of seemingly random, yet playfully intellectual camaraderie between two individuals which tests the theatrical conventions of story.
Baker has a good ear for the dialogue of her generation, and a good eye for its Lost Boys, floundering Peter Pans whose IQs hold out the promise that their disconnectedness fails to produce. Bring your curiosity to this FSU/Asolo Conservatory production and be prepared to tune into your freshman year in college, a place where two 30-year-olds seem frozen in inner time and a world in which a 17-year-old is about to enter.
Set behind a coffee house in small-town Vermont, the lads lounge uninvited on a picnic table surrounded by garbage bins and dying plants. The stark realism of the play creates an exceptionally demanding showcase for sheer acting talent, which, on the whole, the student trio delivers admirably.
Benjamin Williamson as K.J., a college dropout from an advanced calculus program, whose implied schizophrenia (think “A Brilliant Mind”) is controlled by meds and cocaine, is fascinating to watch. Williamson’s total commitment to his character results in an endearing, memorable performance. His long-time friend, Jasper, played with intensity by Brian Nemiroff, is a disadvantaged youth, still struggling to relate to women and to find his place in life. Zlatomir Moldovanski assumes the part of Evan, a nerdish virgin and high school freshman, with openness and believability. A shocking turning point in the second act brings all of these characters into greater focus and clearer intent.
Brendon Fox, guest assistant professor at the Conservatory, who has a long list of credits, including L.A. Theatre Works, NPR, and San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, thoughtfully directs the play. Set and lighting design is by Chris McVicker; costume design is by Whitley Stevens Floyd; and the music director is Don Bryn.
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