Joseph Adams, Dane DeHaan
In the wake of the resounding success of its last produciton, Blasted, Soho Rep has chosen a similarly sparse play to inhabit its downtown digs – Dan LeFranc’s two-hander, Sixty Miles to Silver Lake.
A sensitively drawn portrait of the troubled relationship between a teenager, Denny, and his semi-estranged father Ky, with whom he spends time only on the weekends because of his parents’ divorce, Sixty Miles seems at first a deceptively simple play but eventually swerves into the fast lane, taking on a more abstract form as the characters’ conversation spins out of gear.
The reason for all of the driving metaphors is that the play takes place almost entirely within the confines of a car.
Though the sides of the vehicle sometimes expand and contract, especially as the play hurtles forward, most of what’s important about these characters is expressed through crackling dialogue within their small shared space.
It’s a credit to playwright LeFranc that such a claustrophic play manages to seem so breezy, at least at first. There’s an ample amount of humor, much of it to do with Ky’s off-color, often racist, sensibilities, and the jokey dynamic between the two keeps things rolling along at a comfortable pace.
Set designer Dane Laffrey wisely keeps the production looking naturalistic. The use of video projections to create the illusion of motion is effective; it also allows for the plays’ menacing descent into madness as the straightforward early scenes give way to interludes that are mostly frantic snippets of dialogue.
Joseph Adams instills the character of Ky with a real sense of inner conflict. One minute he wants to be a cool dad; the next he wants to instill in his son a sense of real dignity. One minute he’s extolling the virtues of religion; the next he’s nurturing his son’s burgeoning sex life.
As Denny, Dane DeHaan convincingly shifts between stages in his life as the play progresses, giving the character a real sense of growth that’s necessary to an audience’s investment in this father-son relationship.
Try though they may, however, the cast can’t quite make sense of this jarringly disjointed play. Though it’s consistently fascinating, the disparate pieces of plot don’t quite come together as the play screeches toward its conclusion. Menacing hints at something sinister down the road never resolve with any real sense of satisfaction. And despite the verbal dexterity of LeFranc’s script, some unifying thread uniting the various timeframes is necessary to provide real conflict.
In these key areas, Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, which has the potential for real form-smashing dexterity, flounders under the weight of its experimentation. Though there isn’t a dull moment throughout, an audience’s close attention simply isn’t rewarded. In the void where some resolution should be, instead there’s a lingering sense of confusion, as an audience wonders naggingly, What just happened?