Virtual Theater Review: REYKJAVÍK (The Road Theatre Company)

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by Tony Frankel on May 16, 2021

in Theater-Los Angeles,Virtual

WHAT THE HULDUFÓLK?

Playwright Steve Yockey is at it again. His latest play contains the same ingredients as his previous ones: The supernatural; a mystical eerie hotel; shapeshifters; actors playing more than one seemingly unrelated character; murder; a vacationer; superbly chilling moments; paranormal regions; a spectral visitation; family members reunited after tragedy; gay sex; blood; a folkloric creature; and more — all wrapped up in convoluted storytelling.

At least with Reykjavík, now streaming from The Road Theatre in North Hollywood, the denouement tied up some loose endings. While the outing is most watchable, expect for 90 minutes to scratch your head thinking what does this scene have to do with that other one? I found myself wrapped up not just with the sterling production values (this is an actual real-time play recorded cinematically on The Road’s stage), but with some truly entertaining scenes.

Indeed, the opening scene made me long for the return to live theater. At a four-top table in the techno-bar of an Iceland hotel sits James, an American who has ventured to Reykjavík to see the Northern Lights (you won’t find out very much about James, such as what he does to afford such an expensive trip, but that’s not Yockey’s intention anyway). To his left is a drunk woman James doesn’t know with her head on the table. To his right, are two men who come off like spies. One keeps asking James if he feels good. The other does not speak English. The music is so loud in the bar that the dialogue is splattered on the walls so we can hear what they are saying. Eminently theatrical, the scene is a conveyance belt from pleasure to doom. The tech team of Derrick McDaniel (lights), Nicholas Santiago (projections), Yasmine El-Tayeb (sound) help to make this exciting, scary, steamy, and fascinating scene pop to life.

The confusion comes later when the actor playing James becomes a different character; scenes will thereafter stand on their own strength, depending on the dialogue (which is sometimes too opaque) and/or interesting characters (Mary Jane Miller’s terrific costumes can be of great help). But with six actors playing anywhere from three to five characters each, we’re left to wonder if they are interrelated or there was a shortage of funds to cast more actors. (Hint: It’s not the latter.)

I used to think Yockey’s work could be unfair to audience members, who often have to do some serious forehead scrunching to figure out just what is going on. In his Very Still and Hard to See, Yockey utilized a character from Japanese folklore, the Obake, who is sort of an escort between worlds. Here, it is the Icelandic Huldufólk (or “hidden people”), elves who behave much like humans in resemblance but can make themselves invisible at will. If you don’t happen to know that, it seems you’re missing out on some of the fun Yockey no doubt had writing this play. Then there’s the Raven that turns into a gay guy who loves another who… Never mind. You will have questions at the end. It can only be assumed that Yockey and his astute director Ann Hearn Tobolowsky both want the intrigued viewer to take the effort figure out what the creators already know.

In many ways, Reykjavík is like trying to see the Northern Lights: sometimes the event is completely blurred by clouds, and other times, it’s an enthralling display of wonderment. You get both here. And for far less than it costs to get to Iceland.

Stephen Tyler Howell is James, Hank, Ebon; Alaska Jackson is Debbie, Lydia, Ambiance Sister, Ingrid, One of the Huldufólk; Carlos Lacamara is Grigor, Leo, Aaron; Brian Ibsen is Martin, Ross, Robert, Man in the Down Coat; Danny Lee Gomez is Peter, Mike, Davey, One of the Huldufólk; Jacqueline Misaye is Naomi, Lil, Ambiance Sister, Valerie.

photos courtesy of The Road Theatre Company

Reykjavík
The Road Theatre Company in North Hollywood, CA
streaming until Sunday, May 30
for tickets ($25 per 48-hour rental), call (818) 761-8838, or visit Road Theatre

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