It’s pretty close to free-form theater at the current production from Upstream Theater. Joanna Evans’ The Year of the Bicycle shows some good stuff and some not-so-good stuff. This is the play’s American premiere from the South African author, who’s currently completing her MFA at New York University.
Amelia (Megan Wiles), who’s white, and Andile (Eric J. Conners), who’s black, live in South Africa. It’s not clear exactly what their situation is when we first meet them. But eventually we find them as 8-year-olds meeting over a soccer ball. The times in these portions, but not others, of the show are pretty clearly defined. Events occur months and years apart, with some sliding around, timewise.
Wiles and Conners are excellent 8-year-olds, romping and pouting with exuberance. They work on a wonderful set by Michael Heil, very imaginative, which uses Tony Anselmo’s lights to best advantage. The soundscape, which is to say music, musical effects and other sounds, comes from David A.N. Jackson, and it’s nothing short of fascinating. Phillip Boehm’s direction makes the most of all this.
The thread is the relationship or lack thereof between the two. But the script is remarkably fuzzy, even for this type of theater, and figuring out what’s going on is anywhere from tricky to impossible. The program gives some help, and so does their press release. But performances of a play generally ought to stand on their own. The average theater-goer, especially one who doesn’t walk in and thoroughly read the program, is left adrift here, and with plenty of questions. Or perhaps a puzzled expression and thinking about the nearest place to get a drink.
The Year of the Bicycle
through February 12
Kranzberg Arts Center
501 N. Grand