‘Waiting for Orson’ is bright but belaboring


Promotional art work for the play "Waiting for Orson," a stage play by Ian Leahy. (Courtesy Ian Leahy and Capital Fringe Festival)

Ian Leahy’s new drama, “Waiting for Orson,” is about a young man hanging around public transit urgently expecting an alien encounter. We’ve all been there, right?

The strength of Leahy’s play at the Capital Fringe Festival is its fervent belief in something better than the standardized hurly-burly of our modern lives. That’s why Tristan is waiting for Orson, an extraterrestrial who has promised to reveal a song that will heal humanity — or something like that. It’s also why Tristan is off his meds.

So is Tristan a visionary, or just sick? That’s part of the debate as Tristan phones friends (including his ex-
girlfriend, a psychiatrist) and family from Manhattan’s Penn Station. Using phones and wireless devices is a nice narrative trick: Tristan really is hearing voices. Leahy layers the ambience by adding a cellist and a sultry, blonde singer in a slinky black dress; music opens the show, which is staged in the round in The Shop at Fort Fringe, and it drives the chaotic finish.

The dialogue is bright, but the play eventually belabors its subject — it sees both sides (visionary or sick) without taking you very deep into Tristan’s (or our) problems.

The production is by Instinct Theatre, a new troupe that coalesced at Northern Michigan University, and if it’s likely not the most polished product at Fringe at least the show meets Leahy’s hopeful script on its own intensely chatty, half-jazzy terms.

Waiting for Orson

by Ian Leahy. Directed by Rebekah Heldt. 75 minutes. At Capital Fringe through Saturday. Visit www.capitalfringe.org.

First Post byline, 1992; covering theater for the Post since 1999. His book "American Playwriting and the Anti-Political Prejudice" will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.
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