“LEAVE ME GREEN”: A Review
There are essentially four characters in Lisi DeHaas’ provocative new drama “Leave Me Green”: Rebecca, Gus, Lia, and Myron. Rebecca (Charlotte Booker) is a middle-aged, former “daytime drama” actress whose character “Belinda” got written off the show when she became pregnant in real life. Titian-haired Rebecca is a monsoon of a personality, and she’s indisputably an alcoholic as well. Rebecca is also a single mother to a sensitive teenage son named Gus (Oscar A.L. Cabera), who attends Alateen. At an Alateen meeting (with, conveniently, only two attendees!), Gus meets and soon develops feelings for the no-nonsense, wise-beyond-her-years 16-year old Lia (Emma Meltzer). Rounding out the cast is the good-natured Myron (Michael Gaines): the pot-dealing, funk-and-soul music-loving African-American neighbor who lives across the hall. All four characters, we soon discover, are lonely and isolated in their own way. They carry the weight of past loss and grief. In “Leave Me Green”, that loneliness propels each of them on a journey to take a hard look at their own lives, as well as to discover the ties that bind each of them together. Along that journey, some jaw-dropping revelations are revealed… and a provocative (but not without a few laughs!) theater experience is indeed created for the audience.
There IS a fifth character in “Leave Me Green”, who never actually appears on stage: Inez, Rebecca’s deceased life partner and committed second mother to Gus. Although we never see Inez, she is animated by the onstage characters’ vivid recollections of her– and it’s not difficult to see why the passing of this larger-than-life personality was so devastating for Rebecca and Gus. The fact that Inez “comes back to life” for the audience so convincingly is only one example of the play’s smart script and excellent acting. That excellent acting includes the performances of the two younger cast members, combined with the non-patronizing dialouge that DeHaas gives them to say. It can be challenging for any young actor to convincingly portray that angsty period between childhood and adulthood, when culture at large often underestimates just how knowing and sensitive modern teens really are. The scenes between Cabrera’s Gus and Meltzer’s Lia, as budding lovers, are particularly realistic. Being teenagers, their characters are also able to see some of their society’s so-called “issues” with a more basic and unbiased eye, unblemished by the political or cultural influences of the day. “Leave It Green” takes place during the tense era of California’s Proposition 8, when legal recognition of same sex marriages was the “hot issue” of the day (Astonishingly, in 2015, it STILL is…) . Yet Gus, who was raised by two loving moms, looks at the issue with the so-simple-that-we-often-miss-it attitude of “Who cares?”– the same feeling embraced by so many of the younger generation today. When he tells his mother, “Maybe if you two had gotten married, she wouldn’t have left!” and Rebecca answers, “It’s not even legal.“, his retort is just “So?!” Another amusing yet searingly poignant scene comes when Rebecca makes a late night run to a lesbian bar. She is discovered by a wide-eyed, impressed young fan (also played by Meltzer) who recognizes her from her brief glory days as a soap opera star… when the actress was actually able to afford a cab. Throughout the play, we are frequently treated to Rebecca’s alcohol-fueled, often public episodes of grandiosity. They start out amusing, then become tedious, and then finally turn pathetic. But during the bar scene, Booker as Rebecca shows even more talent with the enviable skill of “wordless acting”. The look on her face as her selfie-minded admirer rattles on speaks volumes. Interestingly, the plays’ climactic underlying secrets are revealed when Rebecca is… sober!
There is profound symbolism, intentionally or not, on the simple “Leave Me Green” stage. The set captures the unique nature of life in New York City. People live in such small spaces and often feel trapped; as well as living in such close proximity to each other yet often feeling isolated. Like with many dramas, the audience of “Leave Me Green” will likely feel that they deserve a sense of of closure with the characters who have exposed their emotions during the length of the play– a “reward”, so to speak, for our commitment to following these people’s lives. “Leave It Green” indeed honors that commitment at its rather life-affirming conclusion… but not before pulling at your heartstrings in a big way.
“Leave Me Green” is directed by Jay Stull and is playing through Saturday, April 11, 2015, 8:00 PM at The Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson Street, NYC. For tickets please visit here. Visit “Leave Me Green”‘s Facebook page www.Facebook.com/LeaveMeGreen.
All photos by Russ Rowland.