Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette concludes its inaugural staged reading series tomorrow, Tuesday, May 13, with Steven Dietz' Lonely Planet. It will be presented at the Monon Depot Theater on the corner of 5th Street and North Street in downtown Lafayette at 7 p.m. There is no admission charge, but donations are welcome to defray costs.
I have loved the script for Lonely Planet since I read it in an issue of American Theatre magazine at graduate school in the mid-1990s. It's a very literate script, referring to topics as wide ranging as mapmaking and the "Greenland Problem," the AIDS epidemic and its effect on the American psyche, and the absurdist theater of Eugene Ionesco. It's also a very passionate script with some of the most damning dialogue about American apathy. Additionally, the two characters — Jody and Carl — have definite points of view about the world they live in, they don't exist in a vacuum and have to respond to the world around them, which forces a lot of specificity into the dialogue; these aren't generic characters and neither is their world.
More than anything, though, I fell in love with the script because of the themes of friendship and the importance of small acts in everyday life. When I bought an anthology of gay and lesbian plays that includes Lonely Planet and read Dietz' author's note from the original 1993 production, I was shocked at how perfectly worded his thoughts on the value of friendship were. Among the craziness of the modern world, it was exhilarating to find a script that paid homage to quiet moments: a shared meal, a telephone conversation, telling a story, an embrace and more. My own thoughts mirrored his almost exactly.
Scott Haan and Corey Linkel are terrific in this staged reading as Jody and Carl — this truly is a script that actors can dig into and find layers upon layers because of the story arcs, the language and their relationship. And for that, I thank Steven Dietz for his brilliant dialogue, his subtle & fully developed plot and his sympathetic heart.