Chris Gibson – BroadwayWorld.com, December 14, 2015
In his director’s notes Ken Page mentions that he had a conversation with a dear friend where they were trying to define “the place that exists beyond ordinary relationships or sexual discovery.” That became the name of Page’s latest play, SUBLIME INTIMACY. And, it’s an apt title for this artistic endeavor that is lovingly crafted and executed. Page, a playwright, director, and an actor on stage and on screen, has produced another unusual and compelling play, much as he did with an earlier work, CAFE CHANSON. Both are decidedly different, but each turns a number of theatrical conventions on their heads with their mix of narrative, music, and in this case especially, dance. Max & Louie Productions have given us a rare treat that could only come from the mind of someone who is a genuine artist in the broadest sense. The result is a very engaging and magical show that features fine performances, some terrific paintings, and sharply honed direction that pulls together cherished memories to illustrate (sometimes literally) the emotional power that “a poet of the body” can have on various individuals.
The through thread of the plot line concerns the connections a group of people have with a dancer they’ve all been taken with at some point in their lives. In some cases this leads to dazzling displays of inspiration, and in others, it shows the heartbreak of unrequited love, or an admiration that leads them to rethink the course and purpose of their lives. I’ve heard some say that there really isn’t a story here, but I disagree. I think there are several stories that intersect, revealing the “sublime intimacy” that they’ve each experienced. Yes, it’s unconventional at times in approach, but that just makes it all the more engaging to witness.
All the actors play multiple roles, but each part is neatly delineated. J. Samuel Davis starts things off with a poetic narrative which sets up the premise, and as he speaks directly to the audience we’re immediately drawn into the tales he relates, including his own. Davis has a naturally infectious enthusiasm that makes you want to know more, and that serves this piece very well. Bethany Barr is also quite good in several roles, and seems nearly unrecognizable in her various guises. John Flack is a delight, as always, and you really get a sense of his strong feelings, particularly when he shares his story as Don, a former Hollywood screen actor. Reginald Pierre comes off initially as an intellectual snob, and in another role as a person who simply cannot fathom the infatuations he’s privy to. But, he also reveals other aspects to his gruff exterior as the play progresses. Michael Cassidy Flynn does particularly strong work as Gene, an artist looking for inspiration, but also shows his range as he takes on other parts as well. The key to making this all work falls on Alfred Solivan, who portrays the various dancers each of the characters comes in contact with. His movements are graceful, and his body is athletic and limber, and he smoothly glides through the choreography, some of which are his own improvisations, with considerable elan.
Music is also a key part of this show, and in addition to the pieces by composer Erik Satie (recorded by Rachel Antoinette Morgan), there are also some choice original composition by Henry Palkes, along with Robin Weatherall’s tasteful use of recordings from different points in time that fit the changing moods and locations in stellar fashion. Satie and Palkes’ compositions are utilized for the dances themselves, which are choreographed by Kameron N. Saunders and David Marchant, and they definitely make the most of the limited space within the theater itself. But then, intimacy is what this play is all about.
Ken Page directs with flair and style. Since he wrote the material it’s obvious that he’s keenly aware of the best way to present it to clearly convey the meaning of the title. Patrick Huber contributes a wonderful lighting design that relies on colors and shadows to give the play additional atmosphere. It would have been easy to just bring up all the lights to illuminate the action, but I applaud the way that our focus is gently guided while a mood is being maintained. Teresa Doggett’s costumes fit the characters, eras, and locations perfectly. Dunsi Dai’s scenic design may seem simple and stark, but it actually allows places to be suggested without resorting to a host of moving pieces and time consuming transitions, and it’s nicely complemented by the props of Claudia Horn. Marjorie Williamson contributes a number of fine canvases that play a pivotal role, and they are each exquisitely realized.
Max & Louie Productions has once again thought outside the box with Ken Page’s memorable and moving SUBLIME INTIMACY, and I think you’ll be genuinely touched by it. This fresh and original show continues at the Kranzberg Black Box Theatre through December 20, 2015.