Owen Panettieri’s play “The Lights Are On” gives a dispiriting preview of what a lot of our properties might seem like sooner or later.
The muddled play, a co-production of New Light Theater Project and Embeleco Limitless, takes place within the residing quarters of Liz (Danielle Ferland), a doomsday prepper who spends her days pacing about her storm-boarded home, inspecting sundry provides and sorting jars of canned meals. 5 years earlier, Hurricane Prudence ravaged her residence. “Afterwards, there wasn’t quite a bit price saving. All of it needed to go,” she matter-of-factly tells her neighbor Trish (Jenny Bacon).
The play begins when a discombobulated Trish visits Liz as a result of she thinks somebody might have damaged into her residence. The 2 haven’t spoken in seven years, but nothing in Sarah Norris’s route conveys a way of estrangement. As a substitute, merely listening to Liz’s voice appears to decrease Trish’s blood strain by a number of levels, and shortly they’re chatting as simply as if Trish had stopped by for a espresso chat after Sunday companies.
Initially, the pair current a examine in contrasts: Trish, together with her silk high and costly haircut, comes from inherited wealth, whereas Liz, together with her loosefitting flannel shirt and mother denims, is working class. But as they catch up and catastrophize in regards to the world, sure egocentric similarities between the 2 girls emerge. Trish has at all times been too preoccupied together with her personal life to contemplate the wants of her neighbor; throughout Hurricane Prudence, she refused to confess Liz and her son, Nathan (Marquis Rodriguez), into the security of her residence. For her half, Liz has turned her home “into a jail” for herself and her son, Trish notes.
An ambient sense of the uncanny pervades the play, however the objective is unclear. What to make of the truth that solely Trish can hear one thing pawing at plaster? Why is a knob on a cupboard affixed to the flawed aspect? Why do characters check with nonexistent “meals on the range” and mistake tea for wine? And any pressure the play accrues is repeatedly dispelled by retirement-ready stereotypes of the hysterical lady (Trish) and ball-and-chain mom (Liz).
Panettieri’s imaginative and prescient of capitalism can also be cartoonish, whether or not the absurd “Transformers”-sounding names of the large companies Trionics and Meglamax or the fanciful notion that Liz herself has a capitalist streak. She has a aspect hustle promoting provisions at “very cheap” markups, based on Nathan, however we by no means see her take orders from prospects, print packing slips or put together gadgets for cargo. The vary of stuff overtaking her kitchen like kudzu doesn’t look like on the market, however stockpiled in case of an apocalyptic occasion. Which could as properly have arrived on the finish of the play’s 95 molasses-slow minutes. Whereas Panettieri’s drama has no bother imagining the tip of the world, imagining convincing characters is a more durable activity.
The Lights Are On
By way of Nov. 11 at Theater Row, Manhattan; newlighttheaterproject.com. Working time: 1 hour 35 minutes.
This evaluation is supported by Essential Minded, an initiative to spend money on the work of cultural critics from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.