by Hazen Cuyler
New Light Theater Project’s current production provides requisite holiday fare while exploring our alarming tendency to disappear from our loved ones lives. Charming and impactful, Everything is Super Great encourages togetherness by articulating the pain caused when someone goes missing. Directed by Sarah Norris and written by Stephen Brown, Everything is playing at 59East59 Theaters.
Tommy is hired by the local Starbucks after losing his job at Applebee’s, because he nearly burned it down. He’s full of wit and charm and quickly falls for Alice, his unreasonably unpleasant coworker. Tommy’s father left his family years ago and his brother has been missing for seven months. After lighting a restaurant on fire, Tommy’s eccentric mother, Anne, arranges a meeting between him and a therapist. Her choice is Dave. Kind, disheveled and unbalanced, Dave is an inexperienced art therapist, whose emotionally abusive girlfriend left him one night without a word. Alice’s mother is mentally ill and often goes missing.
Stephen Brown’s well-crafted play molds its characters into a singular, often fascinating consideration- people are missing in everyone’s lives and we don’t witness the consequences. Near the play’s conclusion, Anne speaks to her son, “I had all these people and then I blinked and they were gone. I’m afraid if I blink again you’ll be gone. Is there something wrong with me?” Later, Tommy states something like 76% of people who go missing are runaways. “Who completely take off from their lives and don’t tell their families where they are, what happened, what’s going on.” This idea persists as you examine each character’s unique case of abandonment.
Tommy is made charming, affable and compelling through a talented Will Sarratt. Alice, Lisa Jill Anderson’s dynamic Starbucks employee, seems like two people. We’re introduced to a hardened, angry, insensitive barista and within minutes we’re charmed by a gentle, open, nurturing daughter. Xavier Rodney’s Dave provides levity entrenched by a complicated personal history and conflicted psyche.
In a wholehearted performance, Marcia Debonis plays Anne, Tommy’s mother. She hires a therapist for her son and finds herself in therapy. Anne sits with Dave, describing the scattered memories of her missing son, oscillating between waves of joy and despair as tears flood her eyes. While her son was in college, before he went missing, she longed for a better relationship with him. He would rarely talk with her so she began sifting through his debit card transactions to sustain any possible relationship. Bank statements substituting a mother’s relationship with her son. In seeing Burger King transactions, she would mail him coupons. “Do you think maybe this could tell me why he didn’t ever want to talk to me?” she asks Dave. A heartbreaking interaction embodied by a fine actor revealing the despair our loved ones face as we leave them behind.
Sarah Norris’ crafts several scenes of significance. Anne gives Pop Tarts as gifts to the people she loves- – microwaving them with butter and heaping stacks into Tupperware. Near the play’s end, her manager at Walmart publicly humiliates her by mocking this meaningful gesture. A fight breaks out, Tommy hears the news and goes to his mother. Sitting in the Walmart breakroom, they fantasize what his brother would do- he’d storm in and fight the manager and they’d all escape. They’d all go to Burger King together and talk. A colder reality sets in and they’re alone, humiliated, inside the breakroom of Walmart. “I’m gonna have to lean on you, is that okay?” she says, limping as they make their way across the room. Ms. Norris’ guidance of her actors, progressing through the contrasting dynamics required in this scene, result in a captivating expression of familial sense of humor, adventure and bleak despair.
In this play, everyone is distanced from one another during the Christmas season. A father and brother are missing. And a husband and son. A girlfriend packs up and leaves. A mother suffers from mental illness and disappears for days on end. In the play, Alice has been searching for her mother around the clock and Tommy invites her to spend Christmas with his family. “I think sometimes it’s important to take an hour,” he says. Everything is Super Great is a play illustrating society as a collection of individuals choosing to spend a little time with each other, no matter who might be missing.
Photos: Hunter Canning