SHOW: Alias Ellis MacKenzie
GROUP: Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental
ATTENDED: Sept. 12, 2:00 p.m., Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut St.
CLOSES: Sept. 19
BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: Go back to the 1980s with the infamous American drug runner Barry Seal, the Colombian drug lords, the CIA agents, and the fixers.
WE THINK: Thaddeus Phillips’ personal experiences playing drug runner, informant, and Iran-Contra Affair player Barry Seal on a MundoFox TV show become this play about actors and crew producing the TV show and about Seal’s “potentially real” adventures.
Early on, the behind-the-scenes activity is fun and revealing: an American actor working in Spanish (scene introductions in screenplay form, and sometimes complete scenes in translation, help those in the audience who don’t speak Spanish), lots of frantic set-up and yelling “action” and “cut.” Eventually, it gives way to Seal’s story.
Jeff Becker’s set is a hybrid of theater and film: sometimes a partial set shows how films need little so long as what’s in the shot looks real, other times flat paintings of planes, cockpits with folding chairs, partial cars film standards completely give way to theater practices. It’s an awkward mix.
Seal’s story fascinates, and Phillips makes him a colorful, larger-than-life figure whose relentless optimism (he can “fly anything, anytime, anywhere”) and phone calls to his kids humanize the amoral guy smuggling drugs and double-crossing the murderous drug lords. Phillips’ American and Columbian ensemble play multiple roles very well.
What could be a great play or movie, though, becomes a cumbersome display of scene changes. When the action stops for a Cadillac’s skeletal remains to roll on in separate pieces or a rickety boxy Winnebago to tediously assemble, the set overwhelms the drama, and I had plenty of time to imagine how either a play or a film would be better than this.