Unless you’ve been living in a bubble the last few years, you know that immigration and immigrants are a hot – and hot-button – topic. Upstream Theater’s first offering of this season is Suspended, by Maya Arad Yasur. It looks at two immigrants who have fled their nameless homeland as it descended into terror.
Benjamin arrives – late – for his first day of work as a window washer on an office tower. His boss Isaac, owning the very small business, is from the same place and it turns out they know each other. They hang in harness, working and talking, over the course of a day. Linda Kennedy directs this intense 75-minute piece of work from the Israeli playwright whose work we haven’t seen here before.
Benjamin is Phillip C. Dixon, giving a youthful enthusiasm to his character, who wants to talk about old times. Benjamin’s not been in country very long, and he is, in both a literal and a figurative sense, learning the ropes. Reginald Pierre’s Isaac advises the rookie to look forward, not backward, learn the language and act grateful. Isaac’s comparative gravitas that Pierre gives him stands the character in good stead – he’s been gone four years now, he’s got a girlfriend, an apartment and the window-washing business. He wants to continue this existence. Wherever they are supposed to be from, the accents flow well, pretty consistent and quite understandable. The two actors work this pas de deux indeed like a choreographed dance, smoothly, almost seamlessly.
The only seams that are noticeable, to continue the metaphor, are in the timing of some pauses in the play. Lights drop slightly, the performers stop speaking and then things start up again. It may be that this is intended to represent time passing during the day, but the placement of them is occasionally inexplicable.
Overall, the set from scenic designer Cristie Johnston, works very well. I’m thinking the actual window-washing hanging seats are managed by technical director Martin Moran and assistant tech director Maxine Viau. The window washing consultant – yes, an actual and quite relevant credit - is Matt Johnson of Blue Sky Window Cleaning. Those lights, which form a serious part of the feel of the evening, are designed by Tony Anselmo, and Dan Strickland’s sound design give us a city far below what we’re seeing.
As is so often the case with Upstream, it’s an interesting evening. The story itself may or may not be predictable, but the acting is swell, and the tech work unusual. No intermission, by the way.
through October 23
Kranzberg Arts Center
501 N. Grand Ave.