In 1969, three high school friends travel around the country, playing basketball and creating their own fruitful history. Now a middle-aged man, Paul (Bruce Nozick) cannot forgive Gary (Daniel Kash) and Stein (David Starzyk) for blatantly disregarding their past. Trying to rediscover his identity, Paul suffers from a mid-life crisis, propelled by his voluntary retirement and Gary's untimely death. Although "The Closeness of the Horizon" ruminates on successful friendships and failed ones, it desperately requires stronger characters and a smarter stage set-up.
All of the characters in "The Closeness of the Horizon" are miserable, either financially, emotionally or spiritually. As such, it becomes increasingly difficult to root for anyone’s well-being. Everyone's vices are laid out on the table. Nissa (Many June Turpin) drinks like a fish, while Annie (Shauna Bloom) nags Paul like an Olympic champion. Stein cannot stay loyal to his wife, and Gary permanently carries meaningless grudges. Most unfortunately, Paul encapsulates all of these shortcomings. As a result, the characters lack any likeable charm.
For all the characters' drawbacks, Starzyk and Bloom carry the show. Starzyk's strengths come in the form of revealing a startling tenderness to Stein's uncouth jock persona and an unexpectedly hilarious insightfulness. On the other hand, Bloom's appearance of a witty, meek housewife changes into a strong-willed woman as the play progresses. Both of the actors’ talents for seeing past their characters’ ignorance successfully couples with Starzyk and Bloom’s propensity for a timely delivery, creating a brief and welcome interlude to Paul’s ongoing pity party.
Regardless of the play’s sullen characters and events, it still asks important questions and explores relevant themes. As Paul loses control of his life, he breaks down and says that he's "afraid that this is it." He doesn't want the remainder of his life to resemble his past. In fact, he is so desperate to regain control that he exclaims, "I want my god damn future back." If the best part of his life is already behind him, then what's left? What does Paul's future hold? By asking these questions, the play targets those who are going, or have gone, through the same debilitating life events.
Highly inventive and original, the stage depicts Paul’s erratic and lively history. Posters and images of historic events plaster the walls, while an old Volkswagen van is neatly tucked into a corner. The elaborate backdrop makes for a beautiful collage, but its busyness often takes away from the scene. However, the background is ingenuous. Changing with the time of day, the surrounding sky transforms from the night on a full moon to a day with a bright, furtive sun. Tom Buderwitz' stage mastery showcases itself in the awe-inspiring setting.
Irregular and despondent, “The Closeness of the Horizon” highlights pertinent mid-life crisis questions, yet loosely fields them. Its open-ended conclusion yields no answers, but Starzyk and Bloom are a pleasure to witness on stage. For them, the horizon isn’t as close as it should be; it’s still looming in the distance, waiting on its first chance to pounce.
"The Closeness of the Horizon" will play at the Odyssey Theatre until June 24. The theater is located at 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd., and ticket prices range from $25 to $30.
Natalia Evdokimova has been involved with theater throughout her life and has reviewed theatrical productions for local and citywide publications since 2005.