Arthur Aulisi and Melle Powers
in Linus & Alora
(© Jacob Stokley Irons)
Arthur Aulisi and Melle Powers
in Linus & Alora
(© Jacob Stokley Irons)
What do we do when pain and suffering come our way? Where do we turn? How do we cope? In Linus & Alora, an ambitious, yet surprisingly intimate, multi-media play at the Flea Theatre, playwright Andrew Irons suggests that we might turn to our own imaginations for help. While the play hovers somewhere between profound and pretentious, as well as teetering between entertaining and tedious, one cannot at any point deny its intensity.

Irons gives us a young woman, Alora (Melle Powers) dying of cancer who finds solace in imagining the child that she will never have, and summoning up a wild support group trio that brightens her life. More significantly, though, before she leaves this earth she makes it her mission to try to rekindle the dormant imagination of her loving husband, Linus (Arthur Aulisi).

Director Jessica Davis uses elaborate sound, video, costume, and lighting design, as well as song and dance, to heighten what might be a simple story into something that is actually both emotionally and theatrically complex. Some of the imaginary scenes in the play are quite clever and inspired, especially the extended moment when we learn why Linus has been so closed down and unwilling to "make believe." Other moments, however, feel forced and simply don't work. In the same sense, some of the original songs that Alora sings come off almost like parodies, while others have a raw emotional punch.

Powers captures the simple innocence that is necessary to believe her character's plunge into her own mind. Ausili's performance is considerably more layered and he gives the play its emotional heft by virtue of his deeply felt, subtle underplaying; he is truly impressive in a difficult role. The rest of the cast provides spark and sparkle, particularly the wonderfully costumed threesome of B. Brian Argotsinger, Noah Trepanier, and Tim Cain, while both Alex Smith and Gamze Ceylan in dual roles add their own color to the production.

Indeed, for a modest length one-act play, Linus and Alora clearly does not stint on production values. There is amusing choreography by Jesse Hawley, as well as first-rates costumes by Becky Lasky, Dustin O'Neill's arresting video design, complex sound design by Jill BC DuBoff, and excellent lighting design by Owen Hughes. While these elements elevate the production, one wishes that the play was a more fully effective effort.