L&S America Online   Subscribe
Home Lighting Sound AmericaIndustry NewsCovid-19 UpdatesLSA DirectoryEventsContacts

-Today's News

-Last 7 Days

-Business News + COVID-19 Updates and Support

-People News

-Product News

-Theatre in Review

-Subscribe to News

-Subscribe to LSA Mag

-News Archive

-Media Kit

-A Theatre Project Book

-PLASA Events

Theatre in Review: Omega Kids (New Light Theater Project/Access Theater)

Fernande Gonzalez, Will Sarratt. Photo: Hunter Canning

In Omega Kids, Noah Mease hasn't just written a play, he has invented an entire superhero universe; Omega Kids is the title of a fictional franchise about supernaturally gifted teens -- sort of a junior division of the X-Men, if you will. Not only are we extensively informed about their collective backstory in the course of the play, Mease has also written and drawn a twenty-page issue of an Omega Kids comic book, circa 2007. It details how the kids, a group of preternaturally gifted loners, have lost both of their adult mentors, leaving them feeling abandoned and unsure how to proceed. Near the end of the book, two of them, Lucas and Kyle, in the middle of a heartfelt conversation, suddenly share a kiss.

This situation finds its mirror image in Omega Kids, the play. Two young men, both named Michael, have met working at some kind of youth conference in Boston. Michael (played by Will Sarratt) is leaving in the morning for New York, where he is to start a new job. Mike (Fernando Gonzalez) has invited him to spend the night. Will their evening end in similarly romantic fashion?

This question hangs over the play's 95-minute running time, providing its only source of suspense. Michael, an obsessive Omega Kids fan, spends the evening detailing various editions and reboots that have been published, dissecting what they say about each character, and dismissing as hackwork the spinoff animated television series that was once so popular. Wading into the minutiae of the seemingly endless, and endlessly fungible, Omega Kids saga, Michael has a wild-eyed look, his enthusiasm bubbling over to an almost alarming degree. There's a look in Mike's eyes, too, and it has nothing to do with comic books, if you get my meaning.

Precisely directed by Jay Stull, and performed with total commitment by Gonzalez and Sarratt, Omega Kids establishes a powerful mood of subterranean longing; without making an overt move, Mike provides any number of openings that, in theory, should move things along. Instead, Michael often greets these gestures with a panicky look, a deflective movement, and another round of Omega Kids fun facts. The tiniest gestures signal major shifts between them. Gonzalez comments that two men with the same name should never date, causing Michael to hastily withdraw a closely placed foot. When Mike retires to take a shower, Michael sits in the middle of the room, legs tucked under, expectantly awaiting his return; yet a couple of minutes later, he is navigating around the elephant in the room with more Omega Kids lore. Many of his speeches end in pregnant, uncomfortable silences. Omega Kids is all subtext, all the time.

Mease drops little details that bring the characters into focus. Mike describes a childhood spent hopping from one foster home to another, some of them abusive. Clearly well-read -- he stops Michael in his tracks by comparing one Omega Kids trope to a plot device from Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude -- he is also the more grown-up of the two. Yet there are hints of something darker: He mentions a tendency toward violence in his childhood ("I broke a girl's foot once -- mostly an accident") and he alludes to a deeply traumatic experience during a year spent studying in Buenos Aires, the details of which remain unspoken. Michael, in turn describes his best friend in high school, a popular athlete. He adds, "And I was like his sidekick. Like, everyone knew I belonged there because of him. Which was fine, actually. I think I thought that's what I was gonna be for him forever." His college years were clearly lonely; it was then that he became an omnivorous reader of comic books. He concludes, sadly, "High school me would be so disappointed in current me."

Much of their conversation revolves around the very issue of Omega Kids that we have in our hands; oddly, Michael disapproves of the Lucas-Kyle kiss, for reasons he can't fully articulate. This leads to the revelation that, unlike the bisexual Mike, Michael, who is clearly damaged, falls somewhere on the spectrum between exclusively gay and asexual, an admission he makes with some embarrassment. Mike, offering comfort, says, "I know what it's like when people don't even believe the thing you are exists. So I'm not gonna tell you you're wrong about yourself." And yet, Michael adds, "Like, then when this happened when I was reading it, like, with Kyle and Lucas, like, yeah, sure, I guess it was kind of important to me."

An evening of feints, evasions, and coded discussions, Omega Kids holds one's attention for a surprisingly long time, inspiring the hope that either Michael or Mike will find a way to make an open expression of desire. About two thirds of the way in, however, a certain tedium sets in; one no longer wants to hear another word about these bloody Omega Kids. Throughout the play, I noticed other audience members dipping into the comic book; they may have been looking up the characters Michael was talking about, or they might simply have been a little bored.

Even if you think Mease has gone to unseemly lengths to provide a foundation for what is little more than a two-hander about a possible romantic encounter, you have to admire his skill at doing so and the fact that he makes his premise work for so long. Certainly his stars and director have something to do with it, as well as his design team. Brian Dudkiewicz's set places the audience on four sides of a slightly sunken carpeted playing area; it's a design strategy that helps to create a necessary intimacy; Scott Gianelli's lighting creates a plausible late-night atmosphere and shifts along with Eben Hoffer's sound design, which combines naturalistic traffic and storm sounds with musical tones (by the composer Tei Blow) and water-related effects. Alex Rozansky's costumes show a clear understanding of the characters.

More a talented attempt than a full-scale success, Omega Kids nonetheless showcases Mease's faultless ear for his characters, as well as his empathy for the loneliness they feel in their little, self-erected prisons. Even if you rightly get impatient with the two Michaels, the last sight of them is enough to break your heart, just a little. His little tale of two lost souls is far more interesting than the entire Omega Kids universe. -- David Barbour

(7 March 2017)

E-mail this story to a friendE-mail this story to a friend

LSA Goes Digital - Check It Out!

  Follow us on Twitter  Follow us on Facebook