A man visiting Iceland to see the aurora borealis engages in a risky hookup at a bar. Telepathic ravens startle two lovers into self-incrimination. In the presence of sinister magical beings, a resourceful sex worker foils a client’s attempts to find truth beneath fantasy. Otherworldly glimmerings intrigue and startle in Steve Yockey’s fitfully compelling “Reykjavik,” now on view in a Rorschach Theatre rolling world premiere production, directed by Rick Hammerly.
The play’s scenes seem to be set in and around Iceland’s capital, and the couples are same-sex. Other facts are more elusive. Is that amiable waitress really a paranormal stalker? Are those hooded creatures the elflike Huldufolk?
The play’s inter-human relationships are unfortunately much less interesting than its supernatural inklings. But Yockey (“Pluto,” CW’s “Supernatural”) does provide fuel for this production’s able, role-juggling actors. Among notable turns, Josh Adams locates the mercurial charm in the sex worker; Robert Bowen Smith delivers a moving monologue about a young shoplifter; and Dina Soltan and Jenna Rossman ace the roles of flirting waitresses. Eric Grims’s set, with spare furniture and gray-fabric boundaries, aptly leaves room for imagination.
Allusions to the northern lights recur in “Reykjavik.” In “The Old Man, the Youth, and the Sea (El Viejo, El Joven y El Mar),” a new play by Spanish dramatist Irma Correa, now in a world premiere run at GALA Hispanic Theatre, the leitmotif is a rumor of a whale. The sea-creature imagery is one of the more memorable aspects of this dramaturgically spindly, sometimes pretentious work, which is less a fully developed play than a lineup of historically inspired conversations. (The play is performed in Spanish, with English surtitles.)
Directed by José Luis Arellano García (a Helen Hayes Award winner for “Yerma”), “The Old Man” draws on the life of Miguel de Unamuno, a Spanish philosopher and author who was exiled to the Canary Islands in 1924 for opposing Spain’s dictator. Set in the island lockup, Correa’s drama imagines Unamuno’s conversations with admirers and other visitors.
Horacio Peña deftly suggests the wit and intellect raging beneath Unamuno’s quiet exterior. But the most satisfying performance comes from the terrific Victor De La Fuente, who packs comedy and pathos into the character of Cisco, a would-be whaler. Cisco is gangly, awkward and easily embarrassed. But when speaking about the whale he wants to hunt, he becomes ebullient, waving a chair in the air to evoke the cetacean’s body and jumping up on a table in thar-she-blows triumph.
Jesús Díaz’s audaciously expressionistic lighting sometimes pins characters in stark geometric beams on the stark blond-wood set. (Silvia de Marta is scenic and costume designer.) But the two-character discussions that playwright Correa has neatly aligned often seem to strain to convey intellectual or philosophical meaning. For instance, a confrontation between Unamuno and a General (Delbis Cardona) registers as a near-allegorical showdown between Might and Ideas.
Moreover, “The Old Man” is the poorer for the lack of a multicharacter scene or two that could display a richer give-and-take between competing personalities and agendas. As it is, the play seems thin and academic. Theatrically, it’s not entirely seaworthy.
Reykjavik, by Steve Yockey. Directed by Rick Hammerly. Costume design, Sydney Moore; properties, Willow Watson; lighting, Katie McCreary; sound, Thomas Sowers; video, Kylos Brannon. With Carlos Saldaña and Dylan Arredondo. 90 minutes. $20-$30. Through March 3 at the Silver Spring Black Box, 8641 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. rorschachtheatre.com.
The Old Man, the Youth, and the Sea (El Viejo, El Joven y El Mar), by Irma Correa. Directed by José Luis Arellano García. Composer, Iñaki Salvador; video design, Elvira Zorita; properties, Alicia Tessari. With Luz Nicolás. In Spanish with English surtitles. 100 minutes. $30-$48. Through March 3 at GALA Theatre, 3333 14th St. NW. 202-234-7174 or galatheatre.org.