note: entire contents copyright 2015 by Sheila Barth
You know - you just know - when Zeitgeist Stage Company Artistic Director-Director David Miller and actor Victor Shopov get together, you’re in for an intense, explosive theatrical experience.
At the New England premiere of Jeff Talbott’s one-act, 100-minute, dramatic play, “The Submission,” (appearing through May 30, at Boston Center for the Arts’ Plaza Black Box Theater), you get all this, and much more, including another timely, through-the-heart zing at controversy, on which Miller and Shopov thrive.
By the way, Shopov stepped out of character, by also designing the costumes, meant to more clearly define each person. That works well, too.
Besides helming the production, Miller also designed the small theater’s set, sandwiched between the audience, flanking the cast on both sides. As the play progresses, it’s equally entertaining to watch the reaction of theatergoers facing us. It obviously affects the actors, too, ratcheting up their performance. The day I attended, so did Talbott, from New York, giving Miller one day’s notice, and surprising the cast, but Talbott’s presence didn’t throw anyone off-tempo. In a talkback immediately following, Talbott said he was thrilled with the cast’s performance, calling it the best he has seen. He was ecstatic!
“The Submission” is already on the horizon, having won the Laurents-Hatcher Award in 2011 and the Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award for New American Play in 2012. Its stirring impact continues to resonate with audiences and critics alike, pleasing Talbott even more.
The play centers around ambitious, gay playwright Danny Larsen’s play he wrote and submitted to the coveted Humana Festival for New Plays in Lexington, Ky., and it was accepted. But Danny knows why. He wasn’t exactly honest, and has himself caught in a tightening web.
His play is a ghetto drama about an alcoholic, African-American mother and her son, who’s a card shark. Knowing it would probably be overlooked if he submitted it with his own name, Danny played a trump card. Instead, he submitted it under the fictitious name, African-American actress Shaleeha G’natamobi - and it worked. He’s delirious. Now, he has to hire an actress to pretend to be Shaleeha and represent him. If he wins, she’ll reveal he’s the real author.
His straight friend, Trevor, (portrayed with a fine-tuned balance by Matthew Fagerberg), pre-read Danny’s play and says it’s fantastic, but he thinks Danny’s plan is risky. Danny’s love and life partner, Peter, (touching Diego Buscaglia), a sharp businessman, is also concerned. But not Danny.
He never wanted anything more in his life.
Danny hires an initially reluctant actress, Emilie, (fantastic Aina Adler) who reads the play and says it’s good- really good. From there, he coaches her on every move, large and small, before the festival, during rehearsals - by cell phone, of course - and he even writes her acceptance speech to deliver.
What Danny doesn’t foresee is his own simmering prejudice and resentment that eventually boils over, into one huge, shouting match between Emilie and Danny.
That shocks even them, resulting in a jolting impact on them all.
The play’s mounting tension and drama are punctuated by sound designer J. Jumbelic’s jazzy music between scenes and Michael Clark Wonson’s multi-hued lighting changes.
Try to not miss “The Submission”. It’s one contemporary, roller-coaster, inside view of underlying political, prejudicial issues that inspires us, like Danny, to take a closer, introspective look - and hope we still like what we see.
BOX INFO: New England premiere of Jeff Talbott’s one-act, 100-minute, dramatic play, “The Submission,” appearing with multi-award-winning Zeitgeist Stage Company through May 30, at Boston Center for the Arts’ Plaza Black Box Theater, 539 Tremont St., South End, Boston. Performances: Wednesday through Sunday: Wednesday, Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4,8 p.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m., including talkback. Tickets, $20-$30; seniors, students, $20. Call 617-933-8600, visit BostonTheatreScene.com, or the Box Office at 527 Tremont St.