Christine Breihan, from left, Inger Tudor, Michelle Hilyard, Brad C. Light… (Darrett Sanders )
A fascinating standoff between realism and stylization underpins “What May Fall” at Theatre of NOTE. Peter Gil-Sheridan's worthy, albeit quirky drama, in which a fatal plunge from a high-rise carries significant consequences for those who witnessed it, receives an inventive West Coast premiere.
Inspired by an actual event in Minneapolis, the narrative frames realistic exchanges between some well-drawn characters with third-person commentaries amid the vignettes. There's hangdog Mercy (Christopher Nieman), a frustrated writer and office drone, whose early lunch with artist friend Ima (Inger Tudor) is interrupted by Mack (Nicholas S. Williams), Mercy's arrogant boss, then by the falling roof cleaner.
Arthur (Brad C. Light), the victim's co-worker, freaks out, demanding that his bus-driving wife, Alice (Lauren Letherer), quit her job. Jo (Alana Dietze), Mack's composed spouse, is concerned with maneuvering Shanie (Christine Breihan), her adversarial slacker sister, into helping her face a potentially devastating medical issue.
Their intersecting story lines, conjoined by Sky (Jason Denuszek), a street busker, and Salli (Michelle Hilyard), the dead man's niece, play out in occasionally prosaic, often intriguing ways. Many preconceptions and several objects have broken apart by the hyper-poetic climax.
Director Mary Jo DuPrey moves this parable adroitly around designer Ellen Lenbergs' abstract cubist set, even if the commedia masks feel like overkill. Her cast, as sensitive and variegated an ensemble as any the company has enjoyed, is impressive, although they could pick up the pace of a script that might easily lose 15 minutes.
Still, if “What May Fall” tells us nothing essentially new, there's sufficient theatricality and thematic heft afoot to justify attendance.
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“What May Fall,” Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 30. $25. (323) 856-8611 or www.theatreofnote.com. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
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