Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Home Below Zero

We paid another visit to the Minneapolis Playwright Center last night and we were as impressed as we had been on our first visit.
by Charlie Leck

I met the playwright, Dan Dietz, last night. He’s a very pleasant young man and it was nice to chat with him. We sat in on a reading of his play, Home Below Zero. Dietz is obviously very talented. The dialogue in this play was both very realistic and intriguingly compelling.

So natural was the conversation among the characters of this production that it almost seemed its construction had been an operose effort by Mr. Dietz; yet the intensity of the effort is not evident in the naturalness of the stage delivery. That’s what happens when dialogue is so real and authentic. It doesn’t seem that a writer was necessary.

The subject matter was intense and so were the characters. It occasionally seemed that the agonies that surrounded the characters was too much for an audience to bear; however, Dietz always seemed to slide some humor or levity into the situation, at just the right spot, to relieve the droning pain of the situation.

Khaled, a young man from Iraq, has managed to find his way to the frigid climes of northern Minnesota in late winter. He’s come looking for Jeff, an American soldier that he had befriended during the war in his native land. It was a love for heavy-metal music that had brought them together. Jeff’s father, Ben, and Khaled don’t hit it off. Jeff is in a long term coma in a Minneapolis veterans hospital, as the result of an IED explosion in Iraq, and Ben wants to blame Khaled for this and for all his family’s woes – the behavior of a renegade daughter, his own unemployment and the looming mortgage foreclosure on his house.

The production experiments with some interesting sound effects, including a live drummer on stage, and it is all pulled off very successfully. We sat riveted through the two act production and felt we’d spent a very worthy evening in the little lab-based playwright center over in south Minneapolis. The actors who read the lines were magnificent and several had to transform themselves into new attitudes and behaviors during the two hour production – and they did it with great skill.

This is a play that will find its way to a significant stage somewhere quite soon. Dietz, as a result of reactions from the audience last night, will touch up a thing here and there and get it ready for a real stage opening. I want to know where and when because I’d like to be there.

Home Below Zero was a terrific success! The presentation last night is a part of the Ruth Easton New Play Series as a result of a grant from the Ruth Easton Fund of the Edelstein Foundation.

I wrote an earlier blog about the Minneapolis Playwright Center.

You can visit the Minneapolis Playwright Center web site here!


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