The emotional reaction created by watching good theatre including goose-bump moments, or the shiver down the spine that comes from being thoroughly entertained is to be treasured. You get that instantly with Lonely Planet at the Tabard Theatre. Grabbing your attention from the start, this two hander is packed with mesmerising and energetic acting.
Playwright Steven Dietz uses the line ‘A chair is still a chair, even if there is no one sitting there’ from the Bacharach and David song A House is not a Home, giving it a special significance. Carl, played with sardonic flair by Aaron Vodovoz collects chairs from his friend’s homes that have died from AIDS. The chair is his reminder of that person and he laments; “I’ve buried 30 people in six months”, a common statistic in the early 80s. The play is set in a slightly run down map shop owned by Jody, played with a rather haunting grasp of the role by Alexander McMorran. He wants nothing but stability in life and when his friendship with Carl blossoms his world is turned upside down. Day after day he brings more and more chairs into the shop which soon becomes overcrowded with the furniture. Both actors deliver speeches direct to the audience that add such intensity to the play, that when fear of the truth becomes an integral part of the plot you can’t take your eyes off the actors. Dietz has woven into his script a Woody Allen style of comedy that is tinged with humility and wit as he is makes an acute comment on the AIDS epidemic. This is a luminescent and layered story about friendship, mental confusion and coming to terms with a situation that is not of your making. Dietz gives the audience a happy ending as two candles are put against a picture of the Earth as seen from space, reinforcing the fact that even on a lonely planet comfort and solace can be found. As the house lights come up at the end it’s hard not to be affected. Ian Brown, the director has done magical things with this play and it is a stunning tour de force by two actors at the top of their game. *****