Theatre Review: ‘Reykjavik’ at Actor’s Express

Gil Eplan-Frankel and Eliana Marianes in “Reykjavik.”

Actor’s Express is producing Steve Yockey’s new play “Reykjavik,” directed by Melissa Foulger, running through Nov. 18.

It’s a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, which means that the show will play in at least three other cities within a year; it’s a tremendous boon to the playwright because the play gets a head start to prominence (hopefully), even as it begins its life. I believe Atlanta is “Reykjavik’s” first city.

Not that Mr. Yockey needs enormous help or anything: The prolific author with Atlanta roots (and now California based) has had a lovely symbiotic relationship with Actor’s Express. In the past several years the company has produced his shows “Wolves,” “Pluto,” “Octopus,” and “Blackberry Winter,” all of which I’ve been privileged to see.

I must also mention “Large Animal Games,” which Dad’s Garage produced in 2009, because it’s another Yockey favorite of mine; it’s both wacky and enlightening.

In 2012 I wrote that “Wolves,” a sucker punch of a play, was a nightmarish vision of love and desire in a carnivorous world. Playwright Yockey wrote that his play was “about the confluence of sex and fear in modern society and the idea of what increasingly isolating ourselves from the outside world can do.”

Does this idea of isolation sound familiar with any current world political goings-on?

Michael Vine and Joe Sykes

You can’t get much more isolated than Iceland, a Nordic island nation which has volcanoes, geysers, glaciers, hot springs, and lava fields. Fire and ice, you see; Reykjavik is the capital, and the setting of the current play. It’s well known for its late-night clubs and bars.

I find there’s a thematic thread running through Yockey’s plays, so that when one speaks of a particular play, it takes no great mental agility to connect it with themes in other plays.

Another thing about his plays: Boredom is not an option. Sometimes consternation is, or terror, or possibly titillation—but not boredom. I would call “Reykjavik” an 85-minute mélange of quasi-love, mayhem, and reconciliation. And I’d leave the kids at home.

The Express PR states that the play is “told through eight interconnected vignettes; we eavesdrop on lovers, siblings, hotel employers, sex workers—and even some birds with really strong opinions about honesty.” It also calls the play a “collision of sex and danger.” I agree, and would also say that like Dr. Lecter, Yockey likes his fun; he never forgets fun. And he has a terrific sense of the theatrical.

But we need excellent actors, and we’ve got them: Gil Eplan-Frankel, Stephanie Friedman, Eliana Marianes, Joe Sykes (who’s having quite a year at the Express with the Suzi Bass Award-winning best play “Angels in America”), Ben Thorpe, and Michael Vine. All the actors play multiple parts—just to keep you on your toes. Director Foulger is a Yockey veteran; and she’s on her game here.

Ben Thorpe and Stephanie Friedman

I love the opening scene in a bar where the music is so loud that we look at superimposed words above the actors to get all the dialogue. It makes you think immediately that Reykjavik must be quite a swinging place. Later we have two gay lovers (Michael Vine and Joe Sykes) having an afternoon tryst which is eavesdropped on by talking ravens. There’s an oddly touching brief reconciliation between two siblings (Gil Eplan-Frankel and Eliana Marianes). There’s an attempted gay-bashing.

Yockey wants to tear up the safe boundaries of our psyches and send the audience home debating everything they’ve seen and heard. I would not call “Reykjavik” my favorite Yockey play, but like his other works, it’s invigorating and bracing. And there’s no room for boredom.

For tickets and information, visit actors-express.com.

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