In Stray Cat Theatre’s opening production for its 2018-19 season, the first thing you’ll notice when taking your seat is that some of the cast are already assembled on the set. They’re talking so quietly and naturally to each other, your first thought is to wonder whether they’d just had a quick tech rehearsal and hadn’t kept check of the time. The second is how the setting is staged. The proscenium arch of Tempe Center for the Arts has been dismantled, making way for that third type of theater that comes somewhere between the arch and a theatre-in-the-round; a thrust stage, but without the stage itself, just a floor-level carpeted platform.
Aaron Sheckler’s effective though colorless scenic design of an unspecified corporate office meeting room thrusts forward. While the majority of the audience still face the forum, some seats are on either side, creating the sense that, depending on where you’re seated, you’re not just watching a performance, you’re in that meeting room acting as silent observers.
Directed by Ron May and performing from now until September 22, The Antipodes runs at approximately 110 minutes without intermission, which is at it should be. Intentionally structured without hooks to keep you wanting more, the play either works without an interruption or it doesn’t work at all. Somewhere in a corporate meeting room of an unspecified company, seven employees and one boss are gathered together. They’re there to brainstorm. They need to come up with the perfect story. And like everything else unspecified in the play, other than their names, we never really know who these people are or what the story they need to formulate is to be used for. It could be for anything. A film, a play, a product, a commercial, a video game, anything. We never know, but it doesn’t matter. That’s not the point.
...it’s ultimately May’s staging of the script along with good, high-energy performances from all the cast that impresses the most, including Will Hightower’s nervous Josh who has yet to paid for his contributions, Louis Farber’s Dave whose explosive outburst renders the team momentarily silent, and Dolores Mendoza’s Eleanor who disturbs the proceedings by sending and receiving messages on her cell when phones are supposed to be off. “It’s my mom,” she tells everyone defensively. “It’s not like fun texting.”