Monday, February 18, 2008

Looking Up (Theatre for the New City)

BOTTOM LINE: The classic relationship play with a twist. Or should I say, a lift.

Looking Up is a charming play about the complexities of love and the risks and rewards that come as one learns to navigate his or her way through a new relationship that is not yet certain to fly. Set in various locations in, around and above New York City, Trapeze Artist Wendy (Carla Cantrelle, also the playwright), and bartender Jack (Bryant Mason) do the familiar dance of two people who are drawn to each other, yet because of past hurts and lingering insecurities keep their escape routes readily accessible. Jack’s escape route, naturally, is another woman; Wendy’s is a trapeze bar.

It is indeed unusual, yet provides an interesting visual diversion to the play's main action, and also serves as a fantastic metaphor for our human desire to want to “fly away” when life is not unfolding as we planned or when things get stifling and uncomfortable. The three trapeze bars hanging in various locations around the stage serve as a constant reminder to the circus Wendy ran away from (and perhaps, at the same time, toward), and add an element of performance art to the proceedings that contribute greatly to the depth and texture of the play.

Cantrelle and Mason are very likeable as Wendy and Jack, and deftly navigate their way through their respective roles with the perfect combination of confidence and vulnerability. As I left Theater for the New City contemplating Looking Up, it struck me that the title not only referred to Wendy flying on her trapeze bar, but could also be interpreted as an optimistic comment on how finding love can change one’s outlook on life. For Wendy and Jack, things are, in fact, looking up!

(Looking Up plays a limited engagement at Theatre For the New City, 155 First Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets. Performances run Thursday through Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm now until March 2. Tickets are $18 and are available at or by calling 212-352-3101.)

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