By Holli Harms
War is the apocalyptic destruction of everything that is life. Of humanity, human consciousness, understanding, innocence, love.
Music is a remembrance of what it means to love life, to have life, to feel what being alive is AND what being hopeful is.
GAS by Charles Cissel, directed by Felicia Lobo is about that loss of life and love and hope, about the transformative power music has to bring us back to us, and about the need for religion and belief in a God who is always on OUR side.
War’s characters are constant human staples of cyclical destruction. The unknown soldier (Scout Backus) is the youth whose death is so enormous in quantity or whose death is so tragic that any way of identifying them is impossible. They symbolize all those who die in war and whose bodies are not recovered and given a proper burial. The burial of humanity is an important finalization of life.
There is the warrior, the patriot, and the nationalist (JJ. McGlone), who continues to fight for country beliefs, and for the necessity of war to raise one part of humanity over another.
And last, the hopeful (Ta’Neesha Murphy), who will struggle to find existence through music. An existence that will cast them away from death, explosions, and blasts of war that are a constant. The hopeful through music are trying to recapture humanity and personal existence.
The music is the savior that the hopeful need and is supplied by Kevin Kim and his saxophone.
All of this is constructed by the ultimate puppeteer, God (A.J. Ditty), or at least the guy who decided, “Hey, I can be God. Why not!”
The set is a playground as we humans are God’s children and he likes to watch us play, especially play war. The set is made of a large interactive set of monkey bars and a spring-mounted rocking duck. The monkey bar configuration allows the characters to climb up, perch themselves on top, and work the space, indicating movement forward but in truth they are moving up and down and over and under in one place never gaining real tread. They can not break free from the constant wars.
The dialogue is heightened poetic prose leaving little room for the audience to fall in emotionally with the characters and story. The set beautifully designed by Christopher and Justin Swader, and the duly godly lighting design by Elizabeth M. Stewart help to transform us into the ever-continuing landscape of war. However, the lack of depth in characters keeps this production from taking flight. Mostly the characters need to be more than simple representations of the stock personas they embody.
Our dependency on war tells us how we humans believe in a God who stands by us when we conquer, which is why GAS is so important. Unfortunately, because it only tells and shows and doesn’t feel and create depth, its important message is watered down to a trickle.
GAS written by Charles Cissel, and directed by Felicia Lobo.
With: A.J. Ditty, Scout Backus, JJ McGlone, and Ta’Neesha Murphy along with saxophonist Kevin Kim.
Creative team: Christopher and Justin Swader (scenic design), Katja Andreiev (costume design), Elizabeth M. Stewart (lighting design), Matt Keim (sound design), Patricia Marjorie (props design), Joe Gery (casting), Samantha Robbins (production manager), Eric Nightengale (Production Supervisor), Zak Biggins (assistant director & production stage management), and Terysa Malootian (assistant stage management). Form Theatricals (Anthony Francavilla and Reed Ridgley) serves as General Manager.
Running Time: 80 Minutes with no intermission
Sixteen performances of Gas will take place May 20–June 10, 2023, at Theatre Row, located at 410 W 42nd St in Manhattan.
The performance schedule is Wednesday–Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 3pm with an additional performance on May 22 at 7pm and no performance on May 28. General admission tickets, which start at $45.00, are available at www.theatrerow.org.