Stages

Review: Pride Live Reading Series Features Steven Dietz’ Lonely Planet, a Play About Chairs

Pride Films and Plays continues its series of live streamed play readings with a two-hander about chairs and many symbols of a plague. Lonely Planet, by the prolific playwright, Steven Dietz, has many references, direct and indirect, to Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs. Both are plays about death and mourning, but Dietz isn’t part of Ionesco’s theater of the absurd. Lonely Planet is a story of two men, lifelong friends, trying to make sense of a world in which their friends keep dying. There’s also clever dialogue, geeky map knowledge, and dream stories.

Pride’s virtual play reading is entertaining and thought provoking and a worthy entry in this series, Pride’s own approach to maintaining connection with their audience during this theatrical shutdown in the midst of a pandemic. There are four more plays in this series. Details below.

David Lipschutz directs Lonely Planet with stage directions narrated by Sydney Genco.

Jody (Shane Roberts) owns a map store and is deeply knowledgeable about mapmaking. After his detailed discourse on the Mercator Projection (the skewed world map we all learned in grade school), we realize he’s paralyzed with fear about the plague that assaults his city. He hasn’t left his store in a long time and has strange, vivid dreams. His longtime friend Carl (Tyler Anthony Smith) has many skills and seems to have many jobs. Art restorer, auto glass installer, corporate plant waterer, even journalist.

Shane Roberts (above) as Jody and Tyler Anthony Smith as Carl. Zoom screen capture.

Carl is out in the world every day. One of the tasks he has taken on is emptying the homes of friends who died and helping dispose of their possessions. Thus, the chairs that he brings to Jody’s tiny map store. By the dozen.

“I help move these people, out of their homes,” Carl says. “And I can’t stand the chairs, all the empty chairs. Sitting alone in rooms.… All these chairs, draped with empty clothes.”

The chairs pile up in Jody’s map store. The references to Ionesco’s The Chairs, in which rows of empty chairs await absent occupants, are literal. At one point Jody says he is reading The Chairs and later loans it to Carl.

Dietz’ eloquent text makes it easy for us to visualize the drama that Jody and Carl are living. The two actors’ strong performances also enhance the experience.

Playwright Steven Dietz (Bloomsday and Mad Beat Hip & Gone) directed the first production of Lonely Planet at Northlight Theatre in 1993. He has written more than 30 plays and was one of the most produced American playwrights in 2019.

Pride Films and Plays will continue its “Pride in Place” series, with each play performed live by actors from their own homes via Zoom meeting technology. Reserve your place for $10 (plus an optional donation) and you’ll receive the viewing link in advance of show time. Here are the upcoming plays, all at 7pm. See more info and ticket links here.

Thursday, May 28: A Late Snow by Jane Chambers.

Thursday, June 4: Buyer & Cellar by Jonathan Tolins, with Scott Gryder reprising the main role.

Sunday, June 28: The Last Sunday in June by Jonathan Tolins.

Thursday, July 1: Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love by Brad Fraser.

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