By Lucas Kavner
Produced by Lesser America
Directed by Stephen Brackett
With: Jake Choi
Carnival Kids is a new play by Lucas Kavner being presented by Lesser America. It concerns a young professional type, Mark (played by Jake Choi), whose father (Randall Newsome), come upon hard times, moves in with him and his housemate, Eckland (Max Jenkins). Dad decides to earn some money by marrying a young Syrian woman who needs a green card, Kalina (Danelle Eliav). It's a secret from Mark who, in the meantime, is is exploring sex with a college friend (Laura Ramadei).
Carnival Kids is well served by Lesser America. Laughter clears the head and heart (Peter Brook, no less, said that it "brain-washes" us). It leaves our emotions open to artfulness. Director Stephen Brackett mines the early part of the play for its comedy. He keeps the dialogue funny and revealing. By the final scene, then, we've been primed, and we're vulnerable to the confrontation between Mark and his Dad. Brackett's stage is never static, never overbusy.
Brackett's adjusted the space to the demands of the script. His stage is wide and shallow. He uses the entire width to define Mark's apartment, and defines the other settings across the space. The technique generally works well. There are couple of settings, however - a bar and a park - that are ill-defined, neglected.
The cast is marvelous, to a man. The scenes are meticulously analyzed, the emotional lives grounded. That actors express conflicting emotions in blend. Mr. Newsome in particular expresses deep emotions with commitment and subtlety.
But Max Jenkins is the particular stand out in the cast, in spite of the fact that his role is less developed than the others characters. Eckland is sulky, endearing and desperate for attention. And Mr. Jenkins plays him with a terrific, unique humor.
Kavner is a skilled playwright. Carnival Kids moves along nicely, never flags. Ultimately, however, the script I unsatisfying. The plot lines aren't entirely resolved. The play doesn't finish, it just ends.
Still, Carnival Kids (the name, by the way, comes from Dad's old rock band) is very fine. We're
looking forward to more from Lesser America.