Caridad Svich Pens Fantastical Romp Amid Amazon Boxes
by Robert M. Gardner
Arriving at the beautiful Lesher Center, we admire the modern lines of this stately, elegant theater, looking forward to a play by prolific playwright Caridad Svich. “Red Bike,” billed as a day in the life of an eleven-year-old, does not forewarn us of the wild ride to come.
Two young kids, in bright red and green, dynamic Amy Lizardo (M) and energetic Adrienne Kaori Walters (A) constitute the cast. Their vague names point out their multiple an changing roles: one kid w/ two minds, two kids, parents, farmers, a real estate scammer. The rapid and sudden switching of their roles can leave us bewildered about what is happening or who is speaking.
The child lives in its eleven year old imagination—pretending to be a super hero, a racer—like a preteen seeking an identity. The dialog reflects the simple speech of a child; but also soars with the lyricism of a vision seeker:
Sometimes I think about the gods
Way up there
And the ones down below too
And all the messes they get themselves in
Like, way bigger messes than us
And it’s like, envy, you know
Monster envy. . .
M and A dance, their banter shifting from childlike to philosophical—throwing us off the track. Svich’s poetry transfixes with its sheer beauty and the ease with which she deploys language. Her insights hit us with the raw energy of slam poetry.
Their philosophical wonder mixes with A dismissing their parents’ oppressive work in the warehouse. . A wall of boxes faces us, stacked floor to ceiling, randomly offset in an artistic pattern.
The brown cardboard boxes represent the warehouse where their father works—flanked by even more boxes. When asked what their father does, M disingenuously replies, “He ships happiness”—a sly reference to Amazon boxes with their ironic smile.
The wall of boxes captures our attention, serving as a screen for images of their small Midwestern town. Svitch is painting an impressionistic picture of what it’s like to grow up in a midwestern town where huge warehouses and stores have gutted the communities. Most kids grow up to leave these hollowed out places.
Their parents are not happy. When they come home, they discuss politics and become angry at the constant bad news on TV. . In typical pre-teen fashion, these do not concern kids; but Svich makes then unconsciously control their imagination. The kid(s) emotional future hangs in the balance.
Kelly James Tighe’s design and projections of small-town life add cohesiveness to the scattered stream of consciousness.
Bright laser beams reflect the excitement of their wild bike ride down a steep hill, while revolving cartoon images of a bike crash spread alarm. The dazzling lights reveal dangerous chaos of the kid’s emotional roller coaster.
Experienced Director Jeffrey Lo has his hands full staging Svich’s poetic mind meld. Streaming consciousness, different for each viewer, floods our minds.
Still, this is a thought provoking and visually stimulating production, worth the effort to share a ride on a dreaming kid’s red bike.
“The Red Bike” by Caridad Svich, directed by Jeffrey Lo, scenic design by Kelly James Tighe, at Center Repertory Company, Walnut Creek, California. Info: CenterREP.org – to February 25, 2023.
Cast: Adrienne Kaori Walters & Amy Lizardo.
Banner photo: Amy Lizardo (M) & Adrienne Kaori Walters (A). Photos: Alessandro Mello