Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sixty Miles to Silver Lake


By Dan LeFranc. Directed by Anne Kauffman. SoHo Rep. (CLOSED)

There's hardly a consensus view of Dan LeFranc's two-hander about a father and son dealing with the aftermath of a nasty divorce on successive car trips. A few critics bought it hook, line, and sinker, from its naturalistic intimacy to its stylized language and time-spliced dramaturgy, and praised Anne Kauffman's direction as well as the performances of Dane DeHaan and Joseph Adams. But most critics had a quibble with one element or another, and a few found the whole thing a strained slog.

That Sounds Cool A
(Aaron Riccio) Dan LeFranc brilliantly captures the relationship between a father and son in a series of photo-realistic snapshots, develops them over several years, and then shuffles them together for maximum exposure...LeFranc's writing is outstanding. With Denny, he nails the run-on excitment and universal disdain of teenagers; with Ky, he's got his finger to the pulse of the awkwardly embarassing ways in which fathers try to stay hip and their attempts to stay in control...The show also benefits from top-notch directing and acting. Anne Kauffman, as usual, remains fixed on the human interactions: her deft ability to communicate a plausible weirdness saves the latter third of Silver Lake.

Variety A-
(Marilyn Stasio) Nothing--and everything--happens in the hourlong car ride on a California highway depicted by Dan LeFranc in "Sixty Miles to Silver Lake." Time marches onward (and jumps backward) in this painfully honest two-hander about the fragile relationship between a divorced dad and the son he picks up every Saturday after soccer practice...LeFranc has a golden ear for the inane conversations conducted by men in cars...Adams turns in such a dead-on perf that he doesn't neglect the little-boy side of Ky's essentially immature character...The onstage moves are actually too subtle to support LeFranc's dramatic ambitions...Technical flaws aside, both the play and its players make it clear enough that, behind the combative behavior of this alienated father and son, there's a terrible unanswered need for love on both sides.

Backstage B+
(Andy Propst) Dan LeFranc captures the conversational awkwardness, intimacy, and anger shared by a divorced man and his teenage son in Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, an often poetic play in which bends in the road are the rule...Under Anne Kauffman's direction, Adams and DeHaan turn in richly detailed performances. DeHaan in particular manages to subtly suggest the variations in Denny's age while also making the frequently sulky, passive-aggressive teen charming. Unfortunately, what's meant to be the climax of the play — a ride the two share just before Ky's split with his ex — confuses.

CurtainUp B+
(Jenny Sandman) Dan LeFranc has vaulted his way onto my Playwrights to Watch list...Dane DeHaan is heartbreaking (and accurate) as Denny, mortified by his father one moment and trying to impress him the next. Joseph Adams as Ky is as embarrassing as every dad is at that age...This nuanced look at a troubled relationship is written in an oddly poetic syntax that sounds natural to the ear. The direction (by Anne Kauffman, of God's Ear fame and others) isn't without its flaw...Nevertheless, it's a fine production of a new play by a hot playwright.

New York Times B
(Neil Geznlinger) Mr. LeFranc’s emotion-filled California car ride features a divorced father (Joseph Adams) and his teenage son (Dane DeHaan), who sit side by side for about 75 minutes but just seem to grow farther and farther apart. The car is presumably gas-powered, but it could easily be running on the fumes of anger and resentment emanating from these two...Eventually Mr. LeFranc expertly leads you to realize that, however many dimensions a normal car ride takes place in, this one has an extra. And the actors, directed by Anne Kauffman in this co-production by Page 73 and Soho Rep, string things out perfectly...It’s an intriguing miniclinic in expanding the playwriting box. There is, though, a bit of a letdown once it’s over because you begin to suspect that despite the growing ominousness of the tale, you’ve just seen a lot of technique but not much substance.

Just Shows To Go You B
(Patrick Lee) What emerges from the playwright’s structure is initially fascinating - the juxtapositions of the scenes struck me as a means to illustrate the cumulative damage caused by the careless things that parents say to children - but the ninety-minute one-act, despite Anne Kauffman’s fluid direction and fully convincing performances by Joseph Adams and Dane Dehaan, nonetheless runs out of gas around the hour mark...Despite that, this is a playwright well worth watching out for, and a play well worth seeing.

Theatermania B-
(Dan Balcazo) Anne Kauffman's staging of Dan LeFranc's Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, currently at Soho Rep in a co-production with Page 73, manages to be engaging, even if the play itself could use a bit of work...Kauffman's direction of her cast and attention to nuance prevents the play from seeming overly static...However, she and set designer Dane Laffrey don't seem to have trusted in this work enough, and have included some special effects which are frankly unnecessary. There are some affecting moments of familial bonding and dramatic tension embedded within the play...However, the non-traditional structure occasionally seems like just a trick to punch up an otherwise banal father-son story that doesn't have much new to say.

New Yorker B-
In scenes that jump back and forth through time, the two characters are revealed to be essentially static—Denny always wants a decent father, Ky remains oblivious. Though the two actors, well directed by Anne Kauffman, do a masterly job, LeFranc’s script is ultimately too one-sided to do his characters justice.

NY Post C+
(Frank Scheck) A flawed journey. It doesn't live up to its thematic aspirations, and it's obvious the playwright is relying too heavily on stylization to compensate for the banal nature of his material. While the staging includes imaginative visual flourishes - the car breaks into pieces, as if to accentuate the emotional gulf between the riders - the static proceedings, even at 75 minutes, prove monotonous. The characters do get under your skin, though, thanks to the superb performances.

Time Out NY C-
(David Cote) A wistful dissection of father-son dynamics that isn’t quite as meaningful or moving as it thinks it is—despite Anne Kauffman’s typically astute direction and two strong performances...There’s a twee aftertaste to this chamber exercise, made worse by the deliberately banal dialogue and stereotyped characters. Luckily, Kauffman and her actors nail small moments of honesty, keeping LeFranc’s formal pretensions from running off the road.

Village Voice D+
(James Hannahan) Like most scripts set in automobiles, Dan LeFranc's Sixty Miles to Silver Lake can hardly breathe—and doesn't feel much like a play...LeFranc's canny ear for L.A.-speak makes these characters convincingly shallow and grating...The play, directed by Anne Kauffman, cries out for insight or perspective—could this be an allegory for the Bush years? Will they crash and learn to appreciate life? But LeFranc shuns profundity. In lieu of a revelation, three-quarters of the way through the piece simply loses its mind, exploding into an absurd mishmash of tics and taglines from the previous dialogue and closing with an image out of Shepard or Rapp.

Nytheatre.com D
(Allison Taylor) This kind of material is usually markedly autobiographical—and yet, what makes Sixty Miles to Silver Lake such a difficult and dissatisfying play is its reluctance to be personal...Anne Kauffman has seemingly directed them to emphasize the characters' brutality and to hide any trace of their vulnerability...Despite all the pair's sound and fury, the play does not come close to tapping into visceral pain...As a replacement for that kind of visceral pain, LeFranc and Kauffman devise forced tonal shifts...The car ride turns out to be a long, slow, unchanging blur.

Gothamist D
(John Del Signore) Sixty Miles—and let's just get this bit of bitchiness out of the way; it feels like one hundred and sixty miles—skips around through time to examine one fractured family's ongoing acrimony, but for a play that spans eight years, it's remarkable how little changes...Maybe that's LeFranc's point; that a relationship between father and son can become tragically frozen at a certain stage of development, no matter how many miles they put behind them. But that doesn't make for compelling theater in this case...The only surprising moment in LeFranc's tedious trip comes at the end, when father and son finally step out of the car to kick a soccer ball around, and not a single note from "Cats in the Cradle" is heard.

That Sounds Cool A 13; Variety A- 12; Backstage B+ 11; CurtainUp B+ 11; NY Times B 10; Just Shows to Go You B 10; Theatermania B- 9; New Yorker B- 9; NY Post C+ 8; Time Out NY C- 6; Village Voice D+ 5; Nytheatre.com D 4; Gothamist D 4; TOTAL: 112/13=8.61 (B-)

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