‘Advance Man’ lands at Secret Theatre

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Is your spouse acting strangely?  Do your children attract the wrong crowd?  If so, catch “Advance Man” at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City. After all, nothing’s the same since dad returned from Mars!

On opening night, Gideon Productions, part of the BFG Collective Residency 2012, delivered a cast of characters who were paradoxically humorous and horrifying.  Their combined talent opened a window into a possible near future. The deliberately mundane set and costumes belied a more harrowing sci-fi scenario that triggered both stitches and shivers in the audience.

Playwright Mac Rogers has penned characters that seem reassuringly typical. Director Jordana Williams unlocks their shockingly sinister deeper purposes. Sean Williams plays the ever wise father and devoted husband Bill. His well-crafted, warmhearted interactions with family and friends seem so wonderfully 1950s.  Who could have expected his radical reversal?  Well done.

Bill’s beautiful wife Amelia (Kristen Vaughan) is a stern but loving mother, caring but confused spouse, and patient teacher to Conor (Jason Howard).  Her trembling body and strained facial expressions at the play’s climax summarize the casts’ collective angst and the cold challenge revealed to the audience. Brava!

Rebellious teen Ronnie (Becky Byers) confounds the sold out crowd again and again. Her motives and actions are seamlessly logical and illogical. Outstanding!  Her brother Abbie is portrayed by David Rosenblatt. He is the tortured artist of the family.  His connections to his own family and to Conor are intense without becoming histrionic.

Contorted comrade Conor has suffered what appears to be a stroke. Is this his tragic reward after three years in space? Jason Howard’s physical and vocal distortions throughout the entire performance are executed with complete believability.

Ruthless Raf (Abraham Makany) is entirely convincing as an astronaut who has no problem shattering ethical boundaries.

Valerie (Shaun Bennet Wilson) and Belinda (Rebecca Comtois) are the last dutiful members of the mission team.  They carry out their orders on planet earth with professional efficiency.  Deep pocketed Kip (Brian Silliman) is easily fooled. Private investigator Lynn (Amanda Duarte) is anything but naïve. Together they provide strong support for the storyline and cast.

“Advance Man” is the first part of “The Honeycomb Trilogy.” Currently running at 44-02 23rd Street in Long Island City, call the box office at 718-392-0722 or surf to www.secrettheatre.com for tix and directions. Part II, entitled “Blast Radius” debuts on March 29.  Part III, “Sovereign,” opens June 14.  As always, save me a seat on the aisle.