Gideon Productions at the Secret Theatre as part of the BFG Collective Residency
January 17th 2012
Space exploration is a font of inspiration often turned to by writers of science fiction, but the real trick for this tired dog is for writers to discover something new. Something innovative. Boldly go where no writer has gone before. Well, buckle up, kiddos… This show takes you to maximum warp – all from a family’s comfortable living room.
Advance Man is the first installment of a three part story, which will be presented over the next 6 months at the Secret Theater. It follows the story of a group of astronauts, newly returned from an exploratory Mars expedition, and focuses on the family of Bill Cook (Sean Williams) – the charismatic father and leader of the space team.
This show depends on it’s cast – calling on strong performances from everyone working together – and everyone rises to the occasion. Husband and wife, Bill and Amelia are masterfully played by Sean Williams and Kristen Vaughan respectfully. Their natural chemistry is only matched by Becky Byers and David Rosenblatt who portray their children, Ronnie and Abbie. Their performance is kinetic and breathes life into these divergent characters, making them a sometimes abrasive – but very believable family. Notably, Jason Howard’s haunting performance as Connor, a home-bound astronaut suffering the ill effects of a terrible brain injury that leaves him forced to relearn simple tasks like walking and speaking, is fantastically intricate and nuanced.
Mac Rogers is a master at weaving tension. Be it a Situation Room full of electric action, or a conversation between a supervisor and a man who would be Savior – Mac has the dual skill of laying down technical jargon with a lyrical ease that would put most text books to shame, and finding and exposing the most human of moments without loosing them in the complexity of his plots. To his credit – Advance Man shines in both areas. It’s a show that literally had me on the edge of my seat until it’s final moment (something that I hope didn’t impede any of the performers from my front row seat). That very seat-edging tension is thanks to the crackerjack direction of Jordana Williams, who clearly knows how to bring the most from her performers and and how to keep this show grounded against the massive scope of it’s plot. It’s a story that is timely, and plays on very modern fears of society – but Advance Man is no morality play. It will have you leave the theater slightly uncomfortable and questioning your own choices.
In an age where spectacle outweighs substance in most science fiction, it’s refreshing to see a return to strong character driven storytelling that is more gripping and immersive than any major lens-flare-filled explode-tacular motion picture.
If ever a show deserved a high five, it’s Advance Man.
You know what? I’m going to give it one right now.
Presented by Gideon Productions as part of the BFG Collective Residency at the Secret Theatre, 4402 23rd St., Long Island City, N.Y. Jan. 12–29. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m. Sun., 3 p.m. (Additional performances Wed., Jan. 18, and Mon., Jan. 23, 8 p.m. (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, or www.bfgcollective.com.