By Tyler Wolff-Ormes and Emily Blazer
If you can’t find something that resonates in Still A Quiet Afternoon, you aren’t listening. Every type of anxiety is covered. From fear of death to fear of living too long. From fear of commitment to fear of love lost. In Steppenwolf’s 1700 black box theater, a sparsely set stage enabled two lovers – Katie Mazzini (Her) and Gabriel Thom Pasculli (Him) – to seamlessly transport through time and space.
As they are… doomed? empowered? to witlessly travel through time, they find themselves in one tragic moment after another. These included the burning of Troy, the Cold War and the end of the world.
All of this is telegraphed in the opening when Katie Mazzini’s character, Her, with exquisite physicality, starts us on our journey. She extends one arm out from backstage and waves her fingers as if to say, this is going to be fun. Silently walking out into the space, she captivated us instantly with facial expressions and then began to sing.
At a time where most of the world is asking, “what the hell just happened?” an absurdist time-traveling tour of tragedy can’t help but be poignant. But the incredible beauty of this show lies in the most real moments – the subtle, perfectly encapsulated truths of anger, hope, desperation, and romantic tumult. Their coping mechanisms run the gamut from helpless (duck and cover) to smart but ultimately hopeless (drenching themselves with water to survive a fire).
As our lovers continue through their time travel maze, they are perpetually repelled by or attracted to each other, like magnets constantly switching polarity. Their regular outbursts of acapella song served as indicators of another flip of emotion and/or a jump through time. The window in center stage served less as dressing and more as a barometer of the current tragedy.
Wender Collective is a rarity – an experimental theater company that has been around for 23 years, but continues to evolve and produce work that resonates deeply while feeling fresh and challenging.