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Back to the Past: A Review of Know Theatre’s “Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All-Night Diner”

Review by Alan Jozwiak of Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All-Night Diner: Know Theatre

Traveling back in time is a perennially favorite wish of humankind. 

Like Doc Brown and Marty McFly in Back to the Future, we have an itch to go back in time to see if we can set things right.  Whether it’s Marty’s dilemma to get his parents together or to stop a major incident from occurring (like the Titanic or JKF Assassination), human beings want do-overs.

In the world premiere time travel fantasy offered by Know Theatre, Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All-Night Diner by Darcy Parker Bruce, the need to back to the past becomes a vehicle for discovery and self-exploration.  Always Plenty of Light explores what happens when Dr. Franklin Moxie (Michael Burnham) and his crack assistant Danni (Maggie Cramer) create their own version of a time traveling DeLorean by taking the physical Starlight All-night Diner out of its current time and moving it back into the deep past.

Without giving away too many spoilers, complications ensue with the two servers at the diner—Sam (Lormarev Jones) and Jessa (Leah Strasser)—join Dr. Moxie along on his time travel safari.

Director Alice Flanders creates a taut 75 minute dramedy that nicely balanced the absurdities found within the play with the real emotions and relationships of the characters.  This is a play that could easily become completely absurd and Flanders does a great job for highlighting some of the touching moments with the cast of characters while still keeping the absurdity.

As the pregnant Jessa, Leah Strasser is a standout.  She deftly explores the terrain of Jessa’s character, moving effortlessly from pathos to comedy, making every action believable.  Strasser also has wonderful sense of physicality which added to the humor of many scenes.  She was counterbalanced by Lormarev Jones, who played the role of Sam. Jones provides the emotional grounding for the play.  Her character’s concern for Jessa is both touching and moving, as well as the lengths she goes to protect Jessa and her baby. 

Michael Burnham as Dr. Franklin Moxie played the mad scientist to perfection.  Balancing his science obsessed character were some touching moments with his assistant Danni, revealing his basic humanity amidst absurdity.  In the performance I saw, Burnham had a very good recovery after accidentally falling out of a position he was holding—the mark of a consummate professional.

Maggie Cramer as Dani had a number of strong moments of emotional connection where her character could sparkle and shine.  Cramer delivers a stand out performance when she is on the cell phone with her parents, beautifully articulating all the contrary emotions faced by her character.

Kudos also need to go to Scenic and Lighting Designer Andrew J. Hungerford who created a version of the Starlight All-Night Diner that was both functional and aesthetically pleasing.  The set captured the essence of the diner and was the perfect backdrop for the action on stage.  Know has a history of creating strong sets and this set was one of their better efforts.

In closing, this production of Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All-Night Diner does a great job at exploring the feelings and relationships of its characters.  The play itself left me wanting a second act to see what happens to these characters, but the production itself was satisfying. 

Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All-Night Diner runs February 22 to March 16, 2019, with performances running Wednesday through Saturdays at 8 pm, with 3 pm Sunday matinees.  For more information on this show, visit Know Theatre’s website at https://knowtheatre.com/season-21/starlight/.