Danielle Di Vecchio, Rebecca Hart, Matt Shofner, Ryan Spahn
The new play at the At Hand Theater Company, Lila Cante, kicked my ass, and I mean that in the best possible way.The play starts off with a running leap at your emotions and expectations and doesnt let up.
Tightly and concisely written by Mark Snyder, the play doesnt pause for even a second.It is a runaway train that the audience simply must get on.The tiny theater forces a proximity to the raw emotions of the actors, which helps to constantly keep the viewer in the moment.
Lila Cante, the title character, is never seen.She was a one-album musical wonder, revered by her fans. She has died before the show opens, and the play concerns her two children who have had to learn to navigate life in the shadow of a star who happened to be their mother. With her passing, they now have to come to terms with Lila as their mother and with her legacy, which they have spent years avoiding.
Ryan Spahn, as Greg, and Rebecca Hart, as Molly, play Lilas children. Both are excellent, but Mr. Spahn pulls off the trickier role.Greg is a bitter, angry young man who, as a photographer, has found a way to wall off even the most private of moments.It is a testament to the talents of Mr. Spahn and the author that the audience ends up rooting for this unlikable, off-putting bitter young man.Ms. Hart plays the more accessible role of Molly with just as much intensity, and pulls the audience along with her.
Danielle Di Vecchio plays Lilas manager trying to milk the last of Lilas fame as the music industry dies.Miss Di Vecchio infuses this character, which could easily have fallen into caricature, with a mission that might or might not be admirable.But Miss Di Vecchio, as Nina, shows an affection for the songwriter, now gone.
The final role, Keith, is more a catalyst for the story than a fully-rounded character, yet Matt Shofner gives Keith a range of emotions even as the character is challeneged repeatedly by Greg.
The show, driven by these actors, is electrifying. In the intimate space of the Ted Bardy Studio the emotions are raw and powerful.The audience is practically on top of the actors, and there is never a forced or fake moment.The show takes full advantage of the minimal, but extremely effective sets by Eli Kaplan-Wildmann and lighting by Ryan Bauer. Overall, the direction of Sara Sahin is pitch perfect for the limited space and the tone of the piece.
I hesitate to set expectations too high for this show, because it should be the same wonderful discovery for you that it was for me.But I encourage you to see Lila Cante if you get the chance. It will not leave you unaffected.