Dragon’s breath follows author Justine Drake (Lordina Lisitza) as she tries to get her YA paranormal romance of the same name published in print. In her journey Justine does readings, answers questions (which always explode into heated debates) and monitors online traffic surrounding her work. Along the way Justine unintentionally creates a cult after meeting and befriending Laura (Hannah Sloat) a troubled individual who finds deeper meaning and peace within the words Justine has written. Laura likens her to a messiah speaking on behalf of an all-powerful white dragon. Sounds a bit familiar? Well, the piece is a satirical approach on the Catholic Church or rather religion in general (particularly extremist involvement).
This play indeed moves like a piece with philosophic intent and it might very well be one of the most entertaining ways to get a point across. For many people philosophy is a bland, confusing topic but this play attempts to deliver some complex thoughts without being extremely boring. The success is due to the electric cast of characters and written jokes which are executed well.
Justine’s character may be the lead but she is the one who is in action the least. All she does is give us a glimpse into the life of an author through conversations with her publicist Bryon (Christopher Michael McLamb). Other than that she goes with the flow in the hopes of achieving her goal. In the end she finally speaks up.
The other characters like Laura are much more active. Laura goes to every reading, defends Justine at every turn, does commercials for the book and basically creates a following—among other things. Another character named Rocco (Michael C. O’Day) also goes to every reading, questions the littlest of details and sometimes exposes the inconsistencies of the connections in the book to other novels on the topic.
Usually I would say having the lead in such a position is not a good choice but upon further thought I realized the genius in the allegory penned Michael C. O’Day. Justine gives her words which are manipulated by Laura to the point where they are no longer her own and take on a life of their own. It makes sense that Justine take no real action as biblical text only gives a message. It is the bystanders who do all the work. There are those who blindly flow like Laura and create distorted realities to aid themselves and those who search the truth like Rocco and are called the enemy.
Justine goes along at first because it serves her purpose but when things have gone completely awry she speaks up. To have her more aggressively pushing toward her goal would deter from the overall message. The huge difference however is religious messiahs have not shown any signs of doing the same, thus Justine’s plea to do work and read many texts to draw one’s own conclusions is something extra. It is not such a new message but one worth a thought.
My issues with the script are few and they have to do with pacing. Sometimes there is just a bit too much dialogue which causes a dragging effect. Other than that O’Day makes a solid writing debut.
A project which reminds me of pieces by Plato and moves for enlightenment is always good in my book.
The costume design by David Quinn is a great thread in the show. The ensembles worn by Laura and her dragon inspired men are both beautiful and dark. Direction by Mikaela Kafka is smooth. There are missed opportunities in which she could have shown more. Still, there are a few scenes like the final scene that are just gorgeous especially when coupled with lighting by Gregg Bellon. Sound by Donald Stark was another element which fit right into place. There was one sound choice I was not sure about but the others were just fine.
As for the acting, the cast is an energetic one. Kendra Holloway, Ellen Warner and Edgar Eguia jump between characters, successfully bringing new life to each one. Hannah Sloat (Laura) is a stand out. She captures the essence of her troubled character finding strength in the book then blossoms into a strong—delusional—but still strong woman. Lorinda Lisitza (Justine) through her delivery makes her character relatable. Michael O’Day (Rocco) brings a comedic touch as does Christopher Michael McLamb (Byron).
In all I would recommend watching this show but will say it is of an acquired taste.
You can watch Dragon’s Breath at Teatro LATEA, part of the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center at 107 Suffolk Street (between Rivington and Delancey). Subways: F/J/M/Z to Delancey/Essex.
Tickets are $18.00 in advance and $24 at the door.
Monday, August 11th @ 9:15pm
Friday, August 15th @ 2:00pm
Saturday, August 16th @4:45pm
Saturday, August 23rd @ 7:00pm
Dragon’s Breath: Written by Michael O’Day and directed by Mikaela Kafka.
With: Kendra Holloway (Moderator), Ellen Warner (Librarian), Edgar Eguia (Book Store Worker), Hannah Sloat (Laura), Lorinda Lisitza (Justine), Christopher Michael McLamb (Byron), David Quinn (Costume Design), Gregg Bellon (Lighting), Donald Stark (Sound Design), Michele Manduchi (Stage Management), Veronigue Ory (Company Representative).