In keeping with the Rogue Machine’s objective of presenting socially relevant topics, what could be more opportune than climate change? Clearly climate change has risen over the past decades from an interesting area to explore to a serious subject requiring mandatory thought and careful planning. In order to tackle this immensely important issue, playwright Mike Bartlett has fashioned this epic tale, EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON.
Three sisters – Freya (Ava Bogle), Jasmine (Taylor Shurte), and Sarah (Anna Khaja) – have been left to raise each other after their mother Grace (Miranda Wynne) dies and their father Robert (Ron Bottitta) abandons them to their own resources. It seems that dad is more concerned with the approaching doom of this planet due to climate change than with the welfare of his children. The pivotal point in all their lives is the pregnancy of daughter Freya and whether there is a future for children in a world marked by disaster and pain. As each of the sisters struggles with her own personal demons, the end of the earth as we know it may be rapidly approaching. Will talk translate into action to meet this crisis? Bartlett’s play carefully dissects these questions.
EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON is clearly well-timed at the very moment when the world is currently experiencing so many natural disasters. As aptly envisioned in graphic detail, graphic and projection designer Michelle Hanzelova has a field day keeping hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires, floods, tsunamis, melting ice caps, and all manner of natural and man-made catastrophes at both the forefront of the audience mind and the backdrop of the stage. Scenic designer David Mauer uses a few well-placed props on a stage which relies on projection, lighting (Matt Richter), and sound (Christopher Moscatiello) to get its message across.
Directors Hollace Starr and John Perrin Flynn clearly had a massive job handling a cast of 17 (with several cast members dealing with more than one role during the show). EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON is nearly three hours long, comprised of multiple “sit-com” type scenes loosely tied together in an almost binge-like mode. Time lines shift and float between past, present, future, and even after-life moments and often begin to blur one into the other. Periodically, the play is punctuated by vaudevillian song and dance which pops up unexpectedly. Clearly, author Mike Bartlett had something to say and wanted to make sure that his message got across and his audience stayed attentive. Unfortunately, some of his techniques might muddy the point and even become preachy, silly, and/or confusing to the audience. His intentions may have exceeded his achievement.
For those intrigued by a thought-provoking peek at climate change and its effects on the people dealing with it, obviously an area of great and timely concern, EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON fits the bill perfectly. The talented cast give their all to this tale of potential death and destruction – with a little bit of hope thrown in at the end. There’s even the occasional chuckle to lighten the grim mood. AUDIENCE ALERT: You might want to bring a soft cushion to this production!
EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON runs through March 1, 2020, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays (no performances on 1/17 and 2/21). The Rogue Machine performs at the Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Avenue, Venice, CA 90291. Tickets are $40 (students $25). For information and reservations, call 855-585-5185 or go online.