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Taking Flight Theatre Company Earth and Sky

By • Feb 11th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Earth and Sky
Taking Flight Theatre Company
Waddell Theater, Sterling, VA
Through February 25th
1:40 without intermission
$15/$10 Students and Seniors
Reviewed February 9th, 2012

Taking Flight Theatre Company opens their 2012 season with Douglas Post’s 1992 thriller Earth and Sky. Poet Sara McKeon’s boyfriend David is murdered in a bad part of Chicago. Sara feels she must learn more about his death so she can understand his life more completely, so she spurns the advice of the police and starts poking around in places she shouldn’t be. As her investigation moves forward, we see her life with David in flashbacks.

Earth and Sky was an enjoyable escape, full of bad guys matching wits with the good guys. The problem is everyone isn’t exactly who they seem to be. Director Matthew Randall keeps the show’s pace moving right along, with only one spot late in the show where it ebbed a bit. Scene changes occurred quickly, with subtle changes to the dressing to help the audience realize we were in a different location (watch the lampshade!). Natalie Dieter’s costumes were almost entirely made up of black and white with shades of gray. There were actually very few uses of color throughout the show, such as Sara’s necklace, the gentlemen’s ties, Joyce and Marie’s hair, a red light in the bar. Ian Claar’s lights were almost entirely white, with most scenes only using two instruments, creating harsh shadows and making the characters appear more sinister. Caitlin Simmons’ sound effects were delightful, helping to evoke the place each scene took place in. Kevin King’s set allowed for several playing areas that served as different locations.

The acting throughout was admirable. The most challenging role by far was Sara McKeon, the poet-librarian, who appears in every scene and is only offstage a handful of times. Lauren Palmer Kiesling played the role in earnest, from the innocence early in the show to the calculating woman getting vengeance as she tracked her lover’s killer. Kiesling has appeared in several shows in Northern Virginia, and I hope we’ll be seeing her in many other shows around the area. Directors, go see this show and judge for yourself how you can use her talents.

Steve Oliverez was interesting to watch as he allowed David Ames to have layers of meaning behind his lines. Why did he want to see the world? Was he really the owner of a struggling restaurant? Was there an ulterior motive for his relationship with Sara? The other characters didn’t have quite as many layers, but everyone wasn’t exactly what they appeared to be. The detectives (Michael Richardson and Jim Johnson) offered a study in contrasts. Sara’s coworker Joyce (Ruth Neaveill) was annoying, but still cared about Sara. Bartender Billy Hart (Jude Rodriguez) was torn between doing the right thing and fear of his customers. Carl Eisenstadt (David Segal) and Julius Gatz (Mario Font) were appropriately menacing as Sara blundered into them. Maria DeFaria (Kathleen Burnard) was a bit hard to hear although that may have been an acting choice to show Marie as strung out wasting her life.

Allow yourself to be surprised as Sara’s journey follows the twists and turns of the path she’s put herself on. The clues are there so you may be able to guess who the murderer is. But you may enjoy the production more if you just put yourself in Sara’s place. Earth and Sky does contain some adult langauge, which came as a surprise but fit the moment. There is also loud gunfire. I did find it odd that after one character fired a gun several times, it was immediately placed into the character’s waistband. Wouldn’t the weapon have been hot and burned the skin?

In sum, Earth and Sky was a satisfying mystery thriller, with plenty of depth to the characters and a nice pace to allow the audience time to process what they’re seeing unfold.

Director’s Note

I view Douglas Post’s Earth and Sky as a film noir for the stage. Similar to that 1940’s movie style, we were presented with the requisite hard-boiled detective, a heroine in trouble, menacing villains, love interests (both real and potential), and endearingly quirky characters at every turn. Unseen connections lying just under the surface tie these seemingly disparate people together. But who can be trusted?

At first blush, part-time librarian and aspiring poet Sara McKeon seems almost na├»ve. Yet her perseverance, born of the trauma of loss, eventually unearths the answers she seeks – and also fears. In just over 100 minutes of fast-paced scenes set in venues throughout Chicago, we are taken on a roller coaster ride with Sara, as she first learns of her lover’s brutal killing, then pieces together the clues which lead her to his killer. Interspersed with these scenes, we see glimpses of her passionate relationship with restaurant owner David Ames, from the night before his death, backwards in time to their first meeting on the moonlit shore of Lake Michigan.

A piece of Earth and Sky requires character actors in the most literal sense, and this cast does not disappoint. With the support and reinforcement of the excellent lighting, sound, set design and costumes the production crew have designed, I believe the stage is indeed set for a good old-fashioned murder mystery. Can you figure out whodunnit before Sara does?

Enjoy the show and thank you for supporting Taking Flight Theatre Company.

Matthew Randall
Director

Photo Gallery

Lauren Palmer Kiesling and Steve Oliverez as Sara and David Mario Font (Julius Gatz), David Segal (Carl Eisenstadt), Jude Rodriguez (Billy Hart), Steve Oliverez (David Ames), Michael Richardson (Det. Al Kersnowski), Jim Johnson (Det. W. E. Weber), Ruth Neaveill (Joyce Lazlo), Sara McKeon (Lauren Palmer Kielsing), Kathleen Burnard (Marie DeFaria)
Lauren Palmer Kiesling and Steve Oliverez as Sara and David
Mario Font (Julius Gatz), David Segal (Carl Eisenstadt), Jude Rodriguez (Billy Hart), Steve Oliverez (David Ames), Michael Richardson (Det. Al Kersnowski), Jim Johnson (Det. W. E. Weber), Ruth Neaveill (Joyce Lazlo), Sara McKeon (Lauren Palmer Kielsing), Kathleen Burnard (Marie DeFaria)
Michael Richardson and Jim Johnson portraying the detectives
Michael Richardson and Jim Johnson portraying the detectives

Photos courtesy of Allrand Photography

Cast

  • Sara McKeon: Lauren Palmer Kiesling
  • David Ames: Steve Oliverez
  • Det. Al Kersnowski: Michael Richardson
  • Det. H.E. Weber: Jim Johnson
  • Joyce Lazlo: Ruth Neaviell
  • Billy Hart: Jude Rodriguez
  • Carl Eisenstadt: David Segal
  • Marie Defaria: Kathleen Burnard
  • Julius Gatz: Mario Font

Production and Creative Team

  • Producer: Natalie V. Safley
  • Director: Matthew Randall
  • Stage Manager: Jay T. Stein
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Deka Nine
  • Set Design: Kevin King
  • Technical Director: Kevin King
  • Master Carpenter: Skip Larson
  • Properties: Barbara Wilson
  • Scenic Artists: Cathy Rieder, Maggie Cotter
  • Light Design: Ian Claar
  • Light Board Operator: Alex Lee
  • Sound Design Effects: Caitlin Simmons
  • Sound Run Effects: Caitlin Simmons
  • Costume Design: Natalie Dieter
  • Publicist: Katerina Paskaris
  • House Manager: Neal Warren

Disclaimer: Taking Flight Theatre Company provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has performed in local productions, but prefers to be behind the scenes. Mike earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Online News Association.

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