Having enjoyed previous shows by Ballview Entertainment so much, I naturally enough looked forward to The Many Lives of Abigail Season. As per usual, what I did not do was try to find out much about the content. Fewer expectations mean I can allow myself to more thoroughly enjoy what a performance is trying to be.
But this is a review, so you want to know that. Here is my take: A noir mystery about a missing person entwining the adult film industry and high level string theory in quantum physics. Plus, you know, a pair of kid detectives. Same old, same old.
I mentioned this description to some friends and their reaction was a "Hell yes, I want to see that!"
Which makes plenty of sense. Words like zany, complex, mind-blowing, madcap, tragic all come to mind having seen this eighty-minute performance. Meg Colburn directed this play by Max Zumstein, centered around Mark Darling (Ty Aldridge) whose wife Abigail (Jenna Hogan) vanished without a trace months back. When he sees her in an adult movie--a scene not as graphic as it might sound, but somehow more disturbing--he ends up hiring kid detectives Mason (Lauren Adlhoch) and Stone (David Dickens) to try to find her. I would argue this set-up alone veers into the wonderfully bizarre. Pretty soon, in between scenes of the investigation we see Abigail in other lives--a nun, a business exec, a maybe secret agent. Along the way we also meet a cascade of wild characters including an effete but honorless private detective (Sean Alan Mazur), a brilliant physicist turned porn star (Sika Lonner), another porn star who seems to have become some kind of aspiring Boddisatva (Ian Michaels) plus two sets of what appear to be a brother and sister (Liz Mina and author Zumstein) who form a pair of truly wild duos, and a publicist AND her secretary (Antonia Czinger). Without an intermission, the plot and emotional roller coaster never really slows down very much.
What makes this work ultimately is that the people seem in some sense real, at least in terms of this weird world. We recognize them, even if they are weird. After all, haven't we all wished we could just be hired to have fun and become a star? Or had our personal interests and obsessions prove true, important, and feasible?
The character of Mark Darling in particular seems vividly "us" in some way. He's in many ways the most ordinary of characters. Not least is the fact he's unhappy, alone, yearning for a love he no longer has in a world that makes no emotional sense to him. At all. He's the point of the spear when it comes to the whole quest of the plot--and in the end he does survive, does end up enough for most the challenges he faces. If in the end he doesn't get all he longs for, we can hardly deny he's become stronger, even wiser.
The Many Lives of Abigail Season plays Wednesday Dec. 14, Friday Dec. 16, and Saturday Dec. 17 at 8:30pm with a matinee at 4pm on Saturday Dec. 17 at the Whitmore Lindley Theatre Center 11006 Magnolia Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 91601.