Nathan Fulton, Jessica Garrett, Kaveh Haerian and Mike Zamarel… (by Chris Hartlove )
It's possible to summarize Andrew Irons' "Linus and Alora" as being about a man and woman anticipating the birth of a child, but its meaning is more difficult to pin down. That makes it a suitable choice for Single Carrot Theatre, because this group in Baltimore's Station North arts district thrives on such avant-garde work.
When Alora (Susannah Edwards) visits a doctor at the beginning of the play, it's immediately clear from their conversation that the playwright is going to raise as many questions as he answers when it comes to Alora's back story and medical condition. Even later, when Alora tells the business suit-clad Linus (Nathan A. Cooper) that she's pregnant, this domestic situation lacks most of the follow-up detail one would expect in a conventional play.
The minimally appointed Single Carrot set does its elusive part by presenting their apartment as little more than an elevated platform. Incidentally, there is a children's sliding board where you would expect to find stairs; and at the other end of the stage is a shallow pit filled with dozens of stuffed animals.
It all makes for a playful setting for their discussions about impending parenthood; but it's also surreal and vaguely melancholic.
There is often physical and, arguably, emotional distance between Alora and Linus, but the play deliberately does not fill in much of their romantic history. What does come across quite clearly is that Alora has a very rich imagination. Indeed, she converses with a son that only she and the audience can see. It's significant that Linus is aware of Alora's paranormal sensitivity and yet generally does not share it.
The entire play involves a sort of interplay between this couple and imaginary characters, including the Three Stooges-evocative bumbling trio of Neal (Kaveh Haerian), Owen (Nathan Fulton) and Arthur (Mike Zemarel). Other fantasy figures are portrayed by Paul Wissman, Jessica Garrett, Melissa Wimbish and David Kellam.
In most plays, it would be important to make sharp distinctions between what's real and what's imagined. This play is playing by its own rules, however, so it ultimately doesn't matter in one scene whether Alora dances with a suave Cuban man or if he is just another dreamy projection on her part. Emulating Alora's stream of consciousness, the entire play is like a projection of her fantasies.
Speaking of projections, this production also relies on video imagery of varying thematic effectiveness that's projected onto two facing walls. The multi-media approach comes more consistently alive with three lively on-stage musicians: Madeline de Mahy on clarinet and percussion, Paul Diem on banjo and guitar, and Jeremy Durkin on percussion and mandolin.
The musicians and actors jointly create songs that turn the production, directed by Genevieve de Mahy, into a quasi-musical.
Although the intermissionless, 85-minute running time does not create narrative momentum, it moves beautifully in place thanks to its fusion of drama, song, dance and video.
It's the sort of movement theater that has its roots in the experimental, group-oriented theater of the 1960s; and it's invigorating to see the young Single Carrot company responding to that theatrical impulse with such choreographic enthusiasm.
"Linus and Alora" runs through July 10 at Single Carrot Theatre, at 120 W. North Avenue in Baltimore. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10- $20. Call 443-844-9253 or go to http://www.singlecarrot.com.