“The Aliens” by Annie Baker Presented by ReAct Theatre

Annie Baker’s characters are capable of saying much by talking little. In some ways this play reminds me of Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”. Here Jasper and KJ, two thirtyish, alienated men hang out behind a coffee shop in a small Vermont town. They are highly intelligent, low energy dropouts. They drift, dream, create, and often are stoned. This is a play of long silences—some fraught with meaning, others just because there is nothing to say. Yet it all combines to create powerful theatre.

These are not tramps or druggies. One is writing a novel, the other is finding himself. Theirs seems to be a world of the moment, whatever that moment happens to be. Into it comes Evan, a high school kid who works at the coffee shop. He’s naive, jittery, nervous, unsure of himself, and even a bit intimidated by these two bodies that washed up on his shore.

He informs them that they really shouldn’t be hanging out there, but he makes little attempt to get them to go. With meager words and few common bonds the three form a relationship that grows into a caring friendship. It could even be said that Evan becomes an acolyte to KJ and Jasper.

aliens02a

Cooper Harris-Turner, Curtis Gehlhausen and Alan E. Garcia

From them he gets encouragement, insights into his sexual awakening, He listens mesmerized to Jasper as he reads from the novel he’s writing. He returns from summer music camp with stories to tell them.

Sensitively directed by David Hsieh, the simple set and everything else worked beautifully. The three actors, Cooper Harris-Turner (KJ), Curtis Gehlhausen (Jasper), and Alan E. Garcia (Evan) play off one another with precision and deep emotion.

Comic yet haunting, this beautiful play may not be for everyone, certainly not for those who are fans of high action entertainment. It’s a slow moving piece that drips over you like honey falling from a spoon. Bit by bit it becomes more meaningful. By the end tears were slowly running down my cheeks, and I couldn’t tell you exactly why. It’s just that the play touched me at some deep place in my soul.

Through July 24 at West of Lenin, 203 N. 36th St., Seattle (206 364-DATE or www.reacttheatre.org).

Leave a Reply