I had the great fortune to check out Movers + Shakers last night. It’s part of the Thesis Works Winter Season at UCSD at the Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre, at the La Jolla Playhouse complex of theaters. The play was a great romp of modern politics that left viewers smiling and with a great message. The music was excellent, the scene design was compelling and the story was extremely well fleshed out by an outstanding ensemble of actors.
The performance consisted of only six actors, but they all played two characters in a way that was humorous, believable and often compelling. Set in a hotel lobby (with a fantastic set designed by Charlie Jica) in Wisconsin, the story centered around an upcoming politician who had arrived to announce an environmental initiative. The problem for him was his new mistress, that he had romanced over Facebook. His problem elaborated with TMZ and a recently surfaced “dick pic”.
The lack of character transformation was forgiven in part due to the strength of the actors and comedic scenes. It was more a romp than an evening of in-depth thematic introspection. The performances, situations and the story were powerful enough to live on the surface, and overcome the lack of complexity in character development.
The story centered on iPhones and modern societies fascination with celebrity and sex over humanism and deeper meaning in life. The scenes were funny, especially a Saturday night love moment where Sean McIntyre’s two characters had a sex scene with, well himself…though it was supposed to be between the two characters he played. The crowd loved this scene.
Another highlight of the play was the live band that performed in the lobby that sometimes interacted with the action onstage. Powered by some excellent guitar work by Boaz Roberts, the band was the glue the ensemble buzzed around. The four piece added another layer of sonic strength to the overall production.
One song stood out especially as it held the strongest emotional pull of all the songs; performed by Caroline Siewart, the politician’s wife, and thoughtfully reprised at the end of the second act by Zora Howard. The chorus of this near alt-country pop hit was, “Too young when I met you, but too old to change.”
The message cut through modern society’s surface fixations of open relationships, sex, iPhones, texting, chatting, and news cycles with a message about humans residing below these meaningless mantras. While the tawdry pull of skin and dick pics swivel heads and fill gossiping mouths, the underlying emotional vacuum that these things create requires hours of shoveling work. Ultimately the message of the play was reinforced by Zora’s final speech.
In a way the story reminded me of Night of the Iguana where the main character heads off somewhere to have an emotional breakdown. And while the piece never gets as serious as Tennessee Williams’ emotional breakdowns, it touches a similar nerve and left this viewer thoroughly satisfied.