My seat for the theater was my comfy recliner in Kansas. The proscenium was the size of my Kindle.
Theater, like many other aspects of life in 2020, is slowly emerging from its pandemic-contained cocoon. It’s forced those who already
creative in their vocation and avocation to become even more so, as evidenced by the two-man comedy-drama “Lonely Planet,” with its online showings this weekend.
Anthony Natarelli, who directs and with Mike Turczynski comprises the cast, stages “Lonely Planet” in his apartment. Its cramped surrounding, complemented by cinematography by Khalil Hacker, create an intimacy one might not even get in the smallest of black box theaters.
(Thinking of all the venues in the Quad-Cities where this could have been performed live and for an audience, the former Harrison Hilltop Theatre seems like it would have been the best fit.)
Natarelli plays Carl, a fast-talking eccentric in his 30s, claiming an array of occupations. He’s a regular visitor to a map store owned by Jody (Turczynski), who – in Steven Dietz’s irony-heavy script – doesn’t want to leave his shop.
The space in the shop becomes smaller and smaller as Carl amasses an increasing number of chairs – each from the homes of friends who have died of AIDS.
Anthony Natarelli, left, plays Carl and Mike Turczynski plays Jody.
Natarelli and Turczynski create a natural rapport – friends who are still guarded around each other, yet supportive. Turczynski’s most effective moments come in Jody’s monologues, many about dreams that seem to be markedly similar chapters. Natarelli effortlessly shows an evolution in his character to a point where his character has switched responsibilities with his friend.
Seeing a theatrical play acted out on screen means some of the live theater rules can be broken, and in this case effectively so. Camera angles show Natarelli’s back to the audience frequently when listening to Turczynski. A change in aspect ratio during a fantasy sequence is a nice touch and change of pace.
Anthony Natarelli in his apartment set for “Lonely Planet.”
The lighting, designed by Turczynski, may be effective in person but loses something on the screen. In several of Turczynski’s monologues, he looks overly shadowed.
In a concession to COVID, both performers wear facemasks throughout the performance.
If we’re not going to have live theater – or live theater as we remember it with a full audience – for a while, it’s refreshing that Natarelli, Turczynski and Hacker can create a new performance that we can enjoy until we all sit in theater seats again.
“Lonely Planet” is good theater that works well online — and shows that creativity can go on during a pandemic.