Around F.C., Arts & Entertainment

NOVA Nightsky’s ‘The American Plan’ Is a Brave, Emotional Success

The NOVA Nightsky Theater Company — a locally-owned theater group in the Little City, co-founded by Jaclyn Robertson and Ward Kay, the Company’s Producing Director and Artistic Director, respectively — recently opened their newest production: a nuanced and character-driven staging of the 1990 play “The American Plan” by Richard Greenberg.

This reviewer was lucky enough to experience NOVA Nightsky’s production of the play in a more intimate, immediate setting — the Company’s office space at 1057 W Broad St, where a condensed walk-through, without the customary costume-changes and with shorter scene-transitions, made for a very close observation of the actors and their environment.

EVA SHINAGEL (left) and MARA ROSENBERG portray Olivia Shaw and Eva Adler, respectively, in NOVA Nightsky’s production of “The American Plan” — seen here at the walk-through performance last week. (Photo: Alex Russell)
ZACH ADAMS (seated) plays Nick Lockridge, a man torn between past and future. Justin Meyer portrays Gil, an unwelcome visitor from Nick’s past. (Photo: Alex Russell)

“The American Plan” (running until Saturday, June 25, and being shown outside Falls Church Presbyterian Church, located at 225 E. Broad St) tells the story of a widow, Eva Adler — played by Mara Rosenberg — and her socially awkward, intelligent daughter — portrayed by Constance Meade — at their vacation home in New York State’s Catskills mountains at the start of the turbulent ‘60s.

Lili soon meets the charming Nick Lockridge — played by Zach Adams — and the two embark on a deep, emotionally-charged romance over the course of the summer, setting off a turbulent struggle for control over Lili’s life on Eva’s part.

Brought to life by director Paul DiSalvo and assistant director Sabrina McAllister, Adams’ Nick exudes a kind of Cary Grant-esque handsome aloofness, while Meade provides Lili with so much bubbly, jittery, effervescent characterization that, even without the full set of props and decorations, this viewer did not “miss the things that are missing,” as Robertson said in her introduction to the walk-through.

The concise direction — making itself apparent in how actors handle their props and respond to their environment — underscores the well-paced conversations and shorter, tense moments highlighted, from time to time, with the kind of silence that seems to take on physical form.

Olivia — played by Eva Shinagel — is Eva’s loyal, wise and tender maid who, throughout the course of the story, displays a deeper, more understanding connection with Lili than Eva is able to construct with her own daughter.

The themes of “construction” and “building” and the imagery of cities and edifices comes up more than once, echoing both Nick’s desire to study architecture in order to complete a “whole city” and the play’s theme of human plan-making and how even the best, well-meaning plans fall apart before they have a chance to take shape.

This kind of crumbling of plans and dreams is perhaps best personified by Gil — portrayed by Justin Meyer — whose sudden resurgence in Nick’s life dredges up a host of unresolved feelings and conflicts.

In addition to the stellar acting, deft direction and characterization and the inherent intelligence of the play itself, this production takes time to deconstruct love and portray its gentle sweetness, beauty and tenderness while never shrinking away from the explosive, violent, vengeful underbelly of what love can make people do.

NOVA Nightsky’s production of “The American Plan” is, in a word, excellent, and highly recommended. For more information and tickets, visit novanightskytheater.com.