Titled after the famed John Burroughs quote, playwright Chana Porter’s Leap and the Net Will Appear follows the life and times of a peculiar, sort of estranged, and ultimately co-dependent ensemble of characters. Employing a surrealistic approach, the bizarro-style annoys after a while with its relentless gimmicks. The message of the piece, if it has one, gets lost in the aesthetic. Though committed performances from the cast help in the unique world-building.
Between Glen Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” and Debussy’s “Arabesque,” a troubadour (billed as Margie’s Heart and played by Andrew Lynch who serves as a narrator, or Margie’s inner voice and plays various extra characters next to the core ensemble) introduces Margie (Polly Lee), a young woman with an eccentric inner world. She seems to be interested in nothing except maybe lions. But she is ultimately convinced to pursue a life of convenience to the satisfaction of her aging parents Simon (Ron Domingo) and Alice (Moe Angelos) by marrying Laurence (Brian Demar Jones) a rich man, and have a baby. For what else defines a woman’s sense of self if not having a baby?
The evolution of Margie and Laurence’s relationship is a deliciously strange montage, and I particularly commend director Tara Ahmadinejad’s staging here which gets us to suspend disbelief; without the actors moving from their places, each seated in an ordinary chair, we go from first date, to marriage, to Margie’s pregnancy by simply stuffing a back pillow in her shirt.
Alas married life leaves Margie hollow and lost; she goes onto an “eat, pray, love” type of journey – except the excess of adventure still couldn’t fulfill her. She runs into her parents in Italy, who have decided to travel the world, and brought along her supposed son Tim (Toni Ann DeNoble).
Things take a turn here for the stranger: Margie and her fake son (we find out pretty quickly that Tim is really Jonas, a rent boy Margie’s parents had just met) hatch a plan to find her real son, and con more money from Laurence.
The real Tim slaves away in his father’s household as a roman soldier. Eliza Bent as Tim shines in this delightfully odd character with a kind of grounded energy that enables her to captivate the audience in even the most bizarre moments.
The play has a lot of potential with its innovative form and intriguing characters. However, it fell short because of a lack of connective tissues from moment to moment in its storytelling. The surrealism and hyper-self-awareness start to feel like a crutch to lean upon towards the latter part of the play as the characters’ actions spiral away from the theme this play looked like it was driving towards at the beginning.
“A woman looking for herself” in itself is a timeless subject, but Margie, who is introduced as the protagonist, wasn’t developed thoroughly enough for me to care for her. Is “finding yourself” about allowing yourself an adventure? Perhaps it’s about finding contentment. But as the perspective of the play is from a rather privileged point of view (Margie can always seem to get a million dollars from her husband just by asking, accompanied by a hollow threat), there aren’t enough nuances to ponder on.
The actors are nevertheless tremendously engaging in this production. Domingo’s flair for the dramatic and Angelos’ staunch practicality make their odd couple the comedic relief we need. Lee’s focus and quirkiness as Margie also redeems the otherwise unsympathetic character.