USA in the 1980s was a time of great prosperity, when greed was good and the pursuit of riches seemed the only valid way of life. The pragmatism of money encouraged the dismantling of family units, and children grew up in the care of hired help, while parents explored possibilities in thriving economies. Mark St. Germain’s Out Of Gas On Lovers Leap is a lamentation that looks at two high school sweethearts, Myst and Grouper. Both characters are created with excellent depth and their backgrounds thoroughly elucidated. The script is dark and dangerous, with the aimless and misguided teenage couple discussing confronting subjects like abortion and suicide, and indulging in sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll before our eyes.
The play is about the gravity in these young lives, but Grace Victoria’s direction allows too much frivolity. The production is entertaining, and extremely high energy, but the dark nuances of the text is often lost. We hear the disturbing details of the dialogue but they do not resonate with a sense of urgency and tension. The cast is vibrant and enthusiastic, but they are not given enough instruction and the deeper social connotations of the story are sacrificed for a lot of clamour and amusement.
Cecelia Peters plays Myst, the talented daughter of a pop music celebrity. Peters’ fervour for comedy keeps the show buoyant, and she pushes effectively to create a sense of excitement. Her emotions are intensely portrayed, but not always appropriately so. The role of her boyfriend Grouper is performed by David Harrison, who is equally effervescent. There is a focus to his work that gives it a sense of polish, and he forms a complementary team with Peters, even if sexual chemistry between the two is a little lacking.
Entertainment is an important factor in assessing a theatrical work’s efficacy, and in the case of Out Of Gas On Lovers Leap, its cast does well at keeping us engaged. Not everything on stage needs to have poignancy and profundity but Mark St. Germain’s script requires a treatment that is more sensitive. The message is a serious one, and it needs to be presented with greater severity. The production concludes well, with Peters and Harrison showing wonderful commitment in the final scene, although a change in tone does occur suddenly. It is now thirty years after that fateful night at Lovers Leap, and Generation X is in its middle age, bringing up its own children. The circle of life may be perpetual, but questions relating to the heredity of emotional and psychological damage become increasingly relevant.