Saturday, September 21, 2013

Freefall by Charles Smith at Drilling Company Theatre

L-R: Omar Evans, Milena Davila, and Rosario Salvador in FREEFALL.  Photo by Lana Davidovich.
Freefall by Charles Smith initially premiered at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago in 1993 and had its off-Broadway debut at Theatre Row the following year.  Now, nearly 20 years later, it is being revived in an outstanding limited run off off Broadway production by Theatre for a New Generation at Drilling Company Theatre on West 78th Street in Manhattan.

The play is set on the south side of Chicago in 1991 but it is far from dated.  Its broadest themes relating to familial and quasi-familial relationships - parents and children, siblings, and the brotherhood of the streets – are as compelling today as they were two decades ago.

Grant (Jason Bond) and Monk (Rosario Salvador) are two brothers whose lives have diverged sharply over the years. Grant is a desk cop in Chicago who, with his wife, Alex (Milena Davila) is attempting to live out a version of the middle-class American suburban dream.   Monk, on the other hand, has just been released from prison after having been incarcerated for five years for burglary and is seeking to establish a new life for himself while searching for the mysterious benefactor who befriended him in prison.  Complicating Monk’s efforts are Spoon (Omar Evans) a Chicago crime lord and drug kingpin who is attempting to lure Monk back into a life of drugs and burglary.

When Monk shows up at Grant’s and Alex’s home, the brothers are forced to confront the meaning of family ties, a confrontation made all the more difficult by the fact that it was Grant who arrested Monk in the first place.  And the issue of family relationships is further underscored by Alex’s own seeming ambivalence toward her own familial responsibilities: is her primary role that of a daughter to her own aging parents or that of a wife to her despondent spouse?

All four actors are absolutely first rate in their portrayals of relatively dysfunctional characters in difficult circumstances but I was especially impressed by Omar Evans as the street-wise gangster Spoon and by Rosario Salvador as the struggling conflicted Monk.  

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