Sonorous Road Productions opened its 2016-17 season on Friday, Sept. 9th, with the regional premiere of Duncan Macmillan’s 2014 play Lungs. Even though there are plenty of comic moments to keep the mood light, our main reason for recommending it is, it is a “thought piece.”
When the curtain rises, an unnamed modern-day couple is shopping at IKEA. The young man blindsides the young woman by suggesting that they have a baby; she freezes, dead in her tracks, and a lengthy discussion ensues. We are then present at key points in their lives. We hear them speaking to each other, at each other, and over each other. We also witness key monologues.
The play is performed on a bare stage. The actors, who never leave the stage, are dressed in nondescript clothing, and there are no props. Shifts in time and location are signified by movement to different spots on the stage. The result: our focus remains on the characters themselves and on the script. Watching them and listening to them, we find ourselves thinking with them and feeling with them. At no point did either of us ever feel inclined to judge them.
We eventually learn that the couple is not married, that the woman is working on a doctorate, that the man is a musician who works in a record store, and that, in addition to other living expenses, they have a mortgage to pay.
Their discussion touches on a wide variety of contemporary topics, but the couple’s largest concern seems to be environmental — does having a baby somehow contradict the responsibility they feel to “Saving the Planet.” The question of “Are we good people?” is also pervasive. As evidence, they offer such statements as: “We recycle” and “We watch documentaries.”
In this process, they explore the paradoxical question concerning the future of the planet — if “good,” “thinking” people do not reproduce, are they thus dooming our future by bequeathing it to an “inferior” gene pool? If so, what is the “correct” decision? While we did sometimes find ourselves chuckling at their meandering musings, we must agree that their thoughts give us legitimate points to ponder.
Director Tony Lea sets a brisk enough pace to avoid creating the feeling of being mired down in all-talk-and-no-action. Lighting designer Liz Grimes Droessler keeps things interesting by providing continual subtle changes in lighting to accommodate the couple’s shifting moods. Most importantly, these actors create a very appropriate chemistry between the characters.
Jonathan King gives us a young man who obviously cares deeply about his partner and about their future(s). In addition, when the character must make the move into a corporate career, we first feel his reluctance to make the move and then his dread when he eventually does so.
Later, we feel his loss when this new lifestyle begins to interfere with life as he knew it, almost to the point of starting to sap his earlier, more natural essence. King’s body language and facial expressions are priceless as his girlfriend voices thoughts and feelings that border on the neurotic.
Michelle Murray Wells very deftly draws us in to her character’s psyche as she confronts the problems and the issues that arise. We easily feel her concerns and her fears, and we experience her losses.
The character constantly worries and over-thinks, but then: don’t we all? Be prepared for Wells to take you with the character on a roller-coaster of concerns and feelings. (One of us must confess to having been brought to the brink of tears at a few points.)
The name “lungs,” of course, conjures up the act of breathing, and we heartily recommend that you come on down and breathe in this production.
WARNING: the show runs 105 minutes without intermission.
BONUS: The run of this show includes an Industry Night — a special Monday-night performance that should enable fellow actors, directors, designers, and technicians the opportunity to attend. We hope that Sonorous Road Productions will thereby be starting a local theater trend.
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 7th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/lungs/Event?oid=5059775. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Sept. 10th Triangle Review review by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/09/duncan-macmillans-lungs-is-a-spoof-of-political-correctness-and-laugh-a-minute-funny/.)
Sonorous Road Theatre presents LUNGS at 3 p.m. Sept. 11, 8 p.m. Sept. 12 (Industry Night), 8 p.m. Sept. 15-17, 3 p.m. Sept. 18, 8 p.m. Sept. 22-24, and 3 p.m. Sept. 25 at 209 Oberlin Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27605.
TICKETS: $18 ($15 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 919-803-3798 or https://www.sonorousroadtheatre.com/tickets.
SHOW: https://www.sonorousroadtheatre.com/lungs/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/1103422159741345/.
2016-17 SEASON: https://www.sonorousroadtheatre.com/2016-2017-season.
PRESENTER/VENUE: https://www.sonorousroad.com/, https://www.facebook.com/sonorousroad/, and https://twitter.com/sonorousroad.
Lungs (2014 play): http://www.painesplough.com/past-productions/2014/lungs-2014 (PainesPlough).
Duncan Macmillan (playwright): http://www.duncanmacmillan.co.uk/ (official website), http://www.painesplough.com/playwrights/playwrights-k-o/duncan-macmillan (PainesPlough).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.