Arts and Culture

Human ties through generations, objects and location are elusive—often unseen—components of our daily lives.

“At the Vanishing Point” helps connect the dots.

The play by Naomi Iizuka takes place in Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood and presents snippets of resident’s lives, woven together through intricate, cerebral phrases and motifs—resulting in a breath-taking survey of shared experience.

Les Waters directs this play, as he did an earlier version that premiered during the 2004 Humana Festival of New American Plays. This version of “At the Vanishing Point” has been updated to include a slightly different group of characters, including “The Photographer” (Bruce McKenzie); Pete, a Thomas Edison House volunteer (Cameron Benoit); Ronnie, Pete’s cousin (Rebecca Hart); and Ben Sollee, a cellist, who plays himself.

Each monologue is beautifully performed—punctuated by Ben Sollee’s original compositions—and the text gives enough information that audiences feel that they know the characters, while leaving enough unknown that it is a joy when the subtle connections between the character’s lives begin to tighten.

One achingly intimate story arch features Ali Burch as Nora Holtz, a young blind woman with many ambitions, and Gregory Maupin as her suitor. Burch’s heartfelt portrayal of Nora makes it all the more dispiriting when we realize through other character’s narratives that she died alone during the great 1937 flood. We are introduced to Maupin many years later when he is working as an accountant, whose by-the-books attitude slowly unravels when he tells stories of his father, and then eventually Nora.

He speaks of a time that he was out in the forest and saw two children: a boy, and a girl who was a vision of how Nora looked as a child. They run off, and he follows, begging them to slow down. But at that point, he’s lost them—a heartbreaking allusion to our fleeting experiences and the fragility of memory.

The simple media, light and sound design (Phillip Allgeier, Matt Frey, Christian Frederickson) hauntingly accentuate the play’s themes and the historical events, including a fantastic interpretation of the flood sweeping over the stage. The mention of these events, as well as some better -known Louisville locations, like Speed Avenue, the Thomas Edison House and the now-defunt Fischer’s Packing Company, also add an element of authenticity to the production.

Overall, the play’s sparse staging, seemingly simple monologues and gentle accompanying music only accentuate the subtlety of the human connection—which, when combined, lead to a new sense of awareness and wonder.

“At the Vanishing Point” runs through Saturday.

 

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.