Paul T Davies reviews Lonely Planet now playing at Trafalgar Studios 2.
Steven Dietz’s play was originally staged in 1993, sandwiched between other AIDS related plays My Night With Reg and Angels in America. Here it is receiving its UK première in this production transferring from the Tabard theatre, and it’s a rather gentle, sweet comedy about two friends trying to survive the epidemic. Jody runs a map store, is a bit of a map geek, a quiet, gentle man, and his friend Carl has no fixed job, admits he is a liar, and lives a life outside the shop. Jody becomes more agoraphobic as the world outside feels less safe, and Carl encourages him to leave the shop. Throughout, Carl keeps bringing chairs into the store, and the play acknowledges its debt to Ionesco’s The Chairs.
The interplay between the two is very well drawn, and Ian Brown’s production is well paced. However, the metaphors are a little obvious, the revelation that the chairs represent each friend and man they know who has died from the disease is telegraphed from the start, and Jody’s dreams in which he is always reluctantly forced to be the hero highlight his inertia in the face of crisis a little too much. There are also overlong lectures about maps, making the analogy about mapping the crisis and the feeling of being lonely in such a huge planet, a bit repetitive. As Jody, I found Alexander McMorran a little wooden in portraying the day to day anxiety of his character, but he conveys grief very well. In contrast, Aaron Vodovoz is a bundle of energy as Carl, a hugely likeable and entertaining character.
Time may have aged the play, but there are some excellent one liners, and the friendship is honestly played- there’s a terrific scene when they play Star Wars using map tubes as light sabres, and it’s a hugely affectionate piece. Although slight, (the play could be cut a little and run without an interval and would benefit from brevity), it’s a pleasing evening, and excellent to see a rarely performed, (in the UK), AIDS play. The run is supported with occasional Q and A’s and guest speakers, and is staged as part of Pride in London.
Until 7 July 2018