You don’t usually go to an 11-year-old kid for social analysis – unless you’re playwright Caridad Svich.
Get ready for a bumpy but amusing and wonderful psychological ride when you take your seat at Moxie Theatre for Svich’s “Red Bike.”
Lisa Berger directs the San Diego premiere of this wondrous 90-minute two-hander – the first in a seven-play cycle – through Feb. 16.
“Red Bike” is a charming, sobering, funny, thought-provoking analysis of the erosion of the American dream – delivered by an 11-year-old kid played by two adult actors – in the style of a tone poem. Svich is nothing if not surprising.\
The script indicates the play can be done with one to four actors, but given the athleticism on view at Moxie, it’s difficult to imagine it as a solo show.
There’s nothing ordinary – or even usual – about this show, except its
indictment of consumerism and gentrification that is turning once-livable cities with trees into something else.
Alondra Velez’s intriguing set features a rising bike ramp that curves around the stage area. The kid(s) walk, run, climb on that track and sometimes grab onto and swing on a solid pole to the ground. Oh yes, and sometimes dance.
Chalk figures in here, too, as A and M draw on the ground, on the wall, on whatever’s handy to illustrate their points.
The kid(s) – A (Timothy L. Cabal) and M (Nancy Ross) share free time and future dreams that are symbolized by that bike. And not just any bike, but a particular red one that M fell in love with through the store window and hopes to get someday soon. That bike represents access, mobility, freedom and escape – and the dream of riding in the Tour de France one day.
Time is flexible here, but the fact that the parents have multiple jobs and insufficient funds seems to be permanent, as a touching scene between M and her mother in a store will illustrate.
There is talk of a stranger called The Guy, an unseen rich man extraordinarily concerned about “stocks, derivatives and securities” who has bought up “half the town” and is tearing down the old buildings for a condo development, which will offer not trees and grass but “condos, steel and glass.”
A possible bike crash takes up a fair amount of time. And drones buzz frequently overhead. Amazon packages or something more sinister?
Never mind when this doesn’t make strict logical or chronological sense. It’s more about impressions. Go with the flow and the ideas presented.
This script is unusual in another way: there are no stage directions. Movement consultant Jeffrey Ingman worked with the actors, but I’ve been told that 85% of the movement was developed by the actors themselves through improvisation. They’re getting a workout.\
Cabal and Ross look and sound like kids. Ross’ M is ambitious and knows what she wants; Cabal is more endearing and pliable.
Kudos to Berger for finding magic in motion and making it out of wadded-up paper and mop sticks. And for letting Svich’s extraordinary script sing.
Brooke Kesler’s costumes, Ashley Bietz’s lighting and Matt Lescault-Wood’s sometimes spooky sound design add to the atmosphere.
“Red Bike” is a show like no other you’ve ever seen. Don’t miss it.
“Red Bike” plays through February 16, 2020 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. in the Rolando district.
Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets: (858) 598-7620 or www.moxietheatre.com