Thereís nothing normal about playwriting apprentice Lucas Baischís, one-act play, ďA Measure of Normalcy,Ē making its world premiere at Gloucester Stage Company. In fact, itís downright bizarre, a 90-minute, nightmarish assault of stage gimmickry and weirdness.
According to press information, Baischís play takes place during Ēthe summer, when youíre tired of it being summer,Ē in a midwestern mini mall, centered on the food courtís burrito stand, where a handful of lost souls work or hang out.† Baischís story has merit, but his characters are obfuscated in Allison Schneiderís maze of blinking strobe-lights and David Wilsonís cacophonous, crackling interludes,† the stuff of teen-agersí wildest dreams, fantasies, and favorite video games. Courtney Nelsonís bleak set, with its few props and angled, suspended ceiling thatís missing some square panels, is fascinating, resembling a world extant between fantasy and reality.†
Director David R. Gammons leads a fine cast:
Lydia Barnett-Mulligan, who effectively portrays Casey Calloway, a 19-year-old assistant manager of the food courtís burrito stand. She impatiently trains a new employee, fantasizes about being a comic book, two-gun cowgirl character, and seems to be losing her grip. She lives with her grandmother, she says, but when we see Casey, sheís at the burrito stand, or sleeping under the table, conjuring up fantasy images. Casey resents her conflicting, contrasting cousin, Ari (Sarah Elizabeth Bedard), who claims to be a saleswoman. Actually, Ari has a pet gecko and operates a hallucenogenic drug business she conjured up, using the geckoís feces. Ari says she operates her business from their grandmotherís basement and peddles her wares at the mall and wherever.†
We glean from other characters that mini mall poor soul Ms. Leland (Ellen Colton), who hands out leaflets and advice on how to achieve spiritual happiness, has become increasingly unhinged and homeless after losing her disabled son, despite her care, leaving her alone. She screams how she now lives in the mall, washing herself in the ladiesí bathroom, but canít rid herself of the stench of urine.†
Portraying Duncan, Eliott Purcell passes through the mall, creating balloon animals for peopleís enjoyment. He has high hopes of becoming a famous rapper, until he realizes he isnít good at it. Duncanís self-actualization leads him to cleaning himself up,hoping† to lead a more productive life.
New burrito stand employee August, who refers to himself by his nickname, Gus (Gabriel Graetz), lives with his parents and is a self-pronounced mathematician-statistician. I love algorithms,Ē he says. Gus desperately needs to hold onto his new job. Heís nervous, apprehensive, and tries hard to please and interact with Casey. ďYour optimism is unsettling,Ē she barks at him.
What ties this group together is a common thread of loneliness, despair and defeat. We want to know more about them, we want to understand them. We want to sympathize with their plight, but after 90 minutes, some of us feel left in the dark.
Gloucester Stage Company features the world premiere of Lucas Baischís, ďA Measure of Normalcy,Ē appearing through Nov.7, 267 East Main St., Gloucester: Wednesday-Saturday, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sunday, 2 p.m. All tickets, $28; ages 25-under, $1. Call 978-281-4433 or visit www.gloucesterstage.com.