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Theatre Mon May 14 2012

Review: Collaboraction's Sixty Miles to Silver Lake

60milesfromsilverlake.jpgAs coincidence would have it, the day before I saw Collaboraction Theatre's presentation of Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, a close friend shared her teenaged son's physician's advice: "If you want to get a teenaged boy to talk to you, throw him in the car and drive around; he'll spill everything that's going on in his head."

Oy vey.

Precisely what dad Ky (Sean Bolger) does to son Denny (Ethan Dubin), though their Saturn sedan is more paddy wagon than therapist sofa in Dan LeFranc's two-man drama (2010 winner of the New York Times Outstanding Playwright). Divorce does strange things to families, first splitting them apart and at the same time placing the pieces of what's left in what can take the form of a Salvador Dali nightmare — all over the (confined) place, and throw in some added parts, damaged in a completely unrelated familial implosion.

Father and son start their journey under nice enough machinations — Denny just wants to play soccer and Ky just wants to barbeque on his new outdoor deck — 60 miles away from the place where they used to be part of an intact family. Their banter is friendly and detached, a father and son talkin' sports and barbequing and girls — oh, and Ky's new job with his new boss, and Denny's soccer coach who's so supportive of Denny and gets along really well with his mom (Ky's ex-wife), and as Denny expresses his admiration for the game of soccer and his coach, past suspicions come to dawn on Ky; he seethes in silence with the realization that his infidelity and unexplained absences officially broke the marriage, while the entire time his ex got away with screwing Denny's surrogate dad, Coach. Well, someone must pay the price for Ky's until-now suppressed realization, and Denny makes for the perfect captive audience, as Ky hurdles them up the expressway to Ky's tenuous new life in Silver Lake, where there's a barbeque grill to be fired up, and a born-again Christian live-in girlfriend (allegedly) excited to meet the kid whose parents she broke up.

It's a journey to be made over and over for years, and in every commute, there's the obligatory catch-up conversation that always quickly turns to a war of words; as Denny gets older, anxiously looking forward to adulthood, Ky sees his place in the world becoming less of an assurance and more like the turkey that didn't make the Thanksgiving cut-this year. His life is in flux, what once was certainty, as with his no longer nere-do-well ex-wife, a son that no longer happily anticipates court-ordered visitation and a career path that finally hits the dirt road. Denny is the perfect captive audience for Ky's bubbling to the surface rage. Eventually, son gives as good as he gets — sometimes even better, as Denny's growing up and Ky aging out commands a shift in power.

Sixty Miles to Silver Lake is a deceptive treat; like having your McDouble switched out for Rib Eye during your first bite. Candidly, when the show opened and the music cued up, I thought, "Jesus Christ, this is gonna be a waste of an evening" — there are more than a few writers out there in love with the idea of portraying matters as thirtysomething episodic add-on, their creations consisting of light comedy-drama that crescendos into the Reagan-esque ideal of middle class family values, where you keep your membership in the middle-class, as long as you pretend to ignore the steaming pile of existential stench that you've made of your own existence.

Sean Bolger and Ethan Dubin make a wonderfully broken family; they're like one of those scratch mix tapes Denny keeps trying to smash into Ky's stereo deck — you kick back and open your mind to it and your concept of childhood nostalgia is forever altered, and not necessarily for the better. Sarah Moeller produces a audio-visual mix tape taking Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle" and setting its GPS to the open-ended road of David Lynch's final scene from Lost Highway; like a real modern family, Sixty Miles to Silver Lake spins the uncertainty of permanent placement to a fine non-formation.

Sixty Miles to Silver Lake runs through May 27 in Collaboraction's space in the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1575 N. Milwaukee Ave., #336. Tickets are $25, or $15 for students and industry.

Photo by Dan LeFranc

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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