Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sixty Miles to Silver Lake

Photo/Monique Carboni

The thing about life--real life--is that it isn't full of dramatic moments. And when its drama overtakes us, it's rarely as well-spoken as it is in the theater. However, life is filled with plenty of regular moments, and some of the mundane stuff we say is pretty profound. In Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, Dan LeFranc brilliantly captures the relationship between a father and son in a series of photo-realistic snapshots, develops them over several years, and then shuffles them together for maximum exposure. Independently, these are quiet moments, ones that hint at Ky's unconscious insensitivity and show Denny's melancholy responses to his parent's divorce. But as a whole, they add up, with repeating lines serving as a reminder of how much and little the father-son relationship changes.

LeFranc's writing is outstanding. With Denny, he nails the run-on excitment and universal disdain of teenagers; with Ky, he's got his finger to the pulse of the awkwardly embarassing ways in which fathers try to stay hip and their attempts to stay in control. And while these characters are at once recognizable, they are never even remotely cliche: the dialogue is far too specific for that. Silver Lake's structure also keeps things fresh: all the scenes take place within a car, which surrounds even casual exchanges in a deeper level of intimacy. The aesthetic choices mirror the text, too: Dane Laffrey's set is recognizably a specific car, but at the same time, open enough to be any car, and Tyler Micoleau's lighting makes such subtle shifts that those who want to can note the precise demarcations in time while others can just enjoy a smooth, singular ride.

The show also benefits from top-notch directing and acting. Anne Kauffman, as usual, remains fixed on the human interactions: her deft ability to communicate a plausible weirdness saves the latter third of Silver Lake. As the show drifts into dreamy symbolism and broadens to show us Denny as a father, the set expands, preserving our sense of boundaries---the equivalent, in other words, of changing a flat tire while the car remains in motion. Dane DeHaan (Denny) and Joseph Adams (Ky) are more noticibly impressive, at odds one moment and best friends the next, but always consistently within their characters. As the father, Adams is more aware of his needs--they are rooted in a transcendentally youthful nostalgia ("The juice, dad!")--but DeHaan is equally virtuosic, communicating equally desperate needs without fully knowing what they are (something that frequent leads back to the embarassed old "I so wish you weren't my dad").

Don't let the small car and small scenes fool you: LeFranc's play has a lot of leg room, stretching out over seven years (though not in chronological order). You don't even have to worry about buckling up, not with Soho Rep. driving Sixty Miles to Silver Lake.

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