A two-character play about a long drive — with most of the 80 minutes of the work taking place in a car — may not seem to hold much dramatic promise. However, Anne Kauffman’s staging of Dan LeFranc’s Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, currently at Soho Rep in a co-production with Page 73, manages to be engaging, even if the play itself could use a bit of work.
Following his divorce, Ky (Joseph Adams) only gets to see his son Denny (Dane DeHaan) on weekends, driving the boy from soccer practice to Ky’s home in Silver Lake, California. As they travel, the two discuss a range of subjects including work, friendship, sex, religion, music, video games, Denny’s mother, and potential visits to Disneyland. At first, the audience is led to believe that their talk is happening on one particular day, but it gradually becomes clear that the play continually jumps back and forth through time covering a period of at least seven years.
While some audience members may find this confusing, it’s not actually necessary to understand exactly when each conversation is taking place. The playwright occasionally drops in hints as to Denny’s age or things going on in his life, but the chronology isn’t as important as the doling out of information. Some of the earlier conversations between father and son take on new meaning as the show goes on. For instance, Ky seems overly harsh about his son’s participation in soccer, which he refers to as “Daycare with cleats,” but the reasons for those feelings become clearer later in the play. The circling back to the same conversational subjects shows the routine that the two fall into, and demonstrates the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
DeHaan does a stellar job as Denny, who often communicates with sullen body language. The youthful-looking actor also manages to be believable in all of the various age ranges he plays without being excessively mannered. Adams is less successful, indicating Ky’s attitudes towards certain subjects. But the two actors work well together to make the father-son dynamic credible.
Kauffman’s direction of her cast and attention to nuance prevents the play from seeming overly static. She’s aided by the excellent sound design by Leah Gelpe that incorporates car, road, and environmental noises in addition to musical underscoring, as well as by Tyler Micolau’s lighting, which is likewise nicely attuned to shifts in mood and driving conditions. However, she and set designer Dane Laffrey don’t seem to have trusted in this work enough, and have included some special effects which are frankly unnecessary.
There are some affecting moments of familial bonding and dramatic tension embedded within the play. The odd chronology also helps to keep you guessing, and you may even start to wonder if some of these conversations ever happened. (A particularly graphic sex talk and a surreal ending underscore the unlikelihood of certain events.) However, the non-traditional structure occasionally seems like just a trick to punch up an otherwise banal father-son story that doesn’t have much new to say.