| Stage |

When the Day Met the Night (a moosehunt experience) from Big Head Productions: Gripping, Vivid

The setup:

The world premiere of a new, experimental play explores five friends using recreational drugs 20 years ago, then leaps into the present to see them as they are today.

The execution:

The first act successfully re-creates the ambience of partying at an all-nighter, with a variety of mind-expanding drugs available for the taking, and take them they do. We meet Diana (Lindsy Greig) in Act I, having a bit of a bad trip, and she provides enough eye candy for several plays. She loves Elery (Cris Skelton), who is hosting the party, but physical interactions with others are apparently not taboo.

In attendance are Bryan (Joshua A. Costea), Gene (Ricky Welch) and Annie (Randi Hall). I would say they all partake of the revelry except that, from the outside, none of this seems like much fun -- the mind may be expanded, but humor, wit and pace are not. The flaw here may be excessive authenticity; the fun is all interior but the actions are lassitude itself.

Act II is a different kettle of fish entirely, so much so that different actors now play the characters. Elery is played by Jonathan Harvey, a bit heavier, but, hey, it happens to most of us; Bryan is now played by Tom Stell, Annie by Susan Blair, and Diana by playwright and director Leighza Walker. Gene, who has a distinctive look, is still played by Ricky Welch, but Gene by now has made an unexpected career choice. Rounding out the Act II cast is Elery's young son Henry (Rider Welch) and Alan Kitty as Bill, Henry's grandfather.

The acting of all is excellent, and Welch has a monologue that opens Act II that he traverses admirably, with just the right emotional tone. The stakes here are higher, as future lives are grappled with, and the characters emerge as much more interesting. Some of the light cues might be more polished, and a physical set-to needs more rehearsal to be credible.

This is Leighza Walker's first full-length play, and the second act shows a gift for plot, characterization, tension and surprises that is remarkable. The set works well, including a brief scene outside the home that is adroitly handled, and the authenticity of the drama is due in large part to the directorial authority brought by playwright Walker, suggesting that indeed a playwright may be the best interpreter of her own work.

The verdict:

An experimental work is well-acted and well-directed, and, after a somewhat slow start, creates a vivid, gripping portrayal of adult strivings at a moment of crucial decision-making.

When the Day Met the Night (a moosehunt experience) continues through November 19, presented by Big Head Productions at Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak, Heights. For information or tickets, contact 832-889-7837 or www.obsidianartspace.org.

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