Review: ‘Indian Summer’ at Playwrights Horizons
Whether it’s the Sharks versus the Jets, the Montagues versus the Capulets, or the summer folk from the city versus the townies, the perennial question is whether love will prevail over adversity. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Gregory S. Moss’ lively comedy-drama “Indian Summer,” which opened Wednesday night at Playwrights Horizons.
We first meet ill-starred 16-year-old Daniel (Owen Campbell) after he has been unceremoniously deposited by his mother at the door of his eccentric grandfather George. Young Daniel seems destined to forever build sand castles at the beach in a small town in Rhode Island, a place that resembles the town in “Jaws” before the shark shows up, the playwright explains on the play’s website.
“When your mother gets back then, boom! You’re done,” granddad, played brilliantly by Jonathan Hadary, tells him in a manner likely to induce severe depression and years of therapy. “But for now, this is your life.”
Mr. Campbell, a superb actor who possesses the unusual ability to project innocence and a certain street smarts simultaneously, takes on a role that at first blush seems feckless. That is, until he meets Izzy (Elise Kibler), a townie with a local and rather muscular boyfriend, Jeremy, who think nothing of making him know he’s an outsider and not particularly welcome.
“Sometimes, things linger,” George observes, a statement that could also be applied to his on-stage presence at times, even with his role as the play’s narrator.
The setting, complete with sand dunes and crashing ocean waves, as designed by Dane Laffrey, is surprisingly realistic and not a bad place to linger. It did a credible job of transporting me to the beach for the duration, while beach town appropriate costumes by Kaye Voyce do much to establish the individual identity of each character.
It soon becomes clear that the two high school sweethearts – Izzy, who is both tough and entrancing as well as smarter than her beau, and Jeremy, who was clearly held back several times in school – aren’t going to make the summer easy for Daniel. “Stop interacting with my future,” Jeremy tells him in a manner that evoked lines that Biff could have said in one of the “Back to the Future” movies.
However, as the play goes on, it becomes evident that Daniel is not the only one in transition.
“I think it would be unpleasant for me to have attachments,” Daniel tells Izzy, who is intrigued with, if not in love with the visitor, “when right now in my life everything is temporary.”
Two teenagers from different worlds. A timeless story. But is it a comedy or a tragedy? Daniel isn’t entirely sure. “We think we’re in control of our lives and destiny and meanwhile the Gods are like: ‘Fuck you, mortal. Fuck you, mortal, fuck you! I guess this is a tragedy with a comedic ending. Or a comedy with a tragic ending.”
Preview: May 13, 2016
Opened: June 8, 2016
Closing Date: June 26, 2016
(Photos: Accura Media Group)