Ruth (Monique Abry) visits a séance held at a bookstore by the once-renowned magician, Avi Leiter. She is able to see past the illusions that fool the general public. She has reason for seeking Avi’s attention. Her husband Michael (Kyle Montgomery) injured in a train wreck, has been in a prolonged coma. On the strength of his past reputation, she hopes he might have the skills to reach her husband. Ruth’s earnest and heart-breaking plea triggers many painful memories for Avi (Michael A. Robinson). Soon Ruth (along with Billy) becomes an assistant in Avi’s ongoing “performance” as he weighs this precipitous decision. We cut to Avi when he was a young man (Wyn Delano) struggling for recognition. A young, beautiful, resourceful woman named Josephine applies to help Avi and Billy and add some glamor to the act. It seems Avi has managed to secure a rare book of sorcery that includes a spell to raise the dead. Then one evening after the show, the three of them are robbed. Written by Patrick Emile and Olivia de Guzman Emile, As We Lie Still is a deceptively simple musical.
It doesn’t use an orchestra or band. Upon reflection, the plot isn’t complicated. And yet, it’s enigmatic and haunting. The music strikes a deep nerve, blending a sense of the miraculous with pervasive yearning. We hear the songs and an undeniable sense of loss overcomes us. But also, a flickering chill of hope. As We Lie Still begs the comparison between the stage illusionist and those who can really tap the supernatural. Like any neophyte, Avi hungers for recognition. But his dabbling in cosmic forces for the sake of vanity, can’t lead him anywhere good. What begins as devotion to Josephine (Olivia de Guzman Emile) turns into something nearly perverse. And devastating.
As We Lie Still reflects upon fine distinctions: between spiritualism and enchantment, dedication and obsession, resignation and acceptance. And certainly, the nature of genuine love in the midst of deeply flawed humanity. A master stroke, I think, is the presence of Billy (Jovane Camaano) a somewhat “slow” and utterly loyal helper to Avi, whose unabashed sense of awe mirrors our own, as Avi reveals wonders to the audience. There is something about this show’s strange mixture of chicanery and the metaphysical, the guileless and the cunning, that seems to strike a nearly perfect balance. Like a chart of the planets in their concentric orbits. It sneaks up and gets under your skin, until you feel that little catch in your throat, and that rush of buried feelings.
Contemporary Theatre of Dallas presents As We Lie Still, playing October 28th-November 20th, 2016. 5601 Sears Street, Dallas, Texas 75206. 214-828-0094. www.ContemporaryTheatreofDallas.com