Know Theater’s “Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All Night Diner” is a Wonderfully Weird and Wild Ride
Posted On February 23, 2019
Review by Willie Caldwell of Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All Night Diner:Know Theatre
The world premiere play, Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All Night Dinner, by Darcy Parker Bruce, is ultimately a story about relationships and overcoming insurmountable odds in the name of love. When a giant asteroid threatens earth, a cast of quirky characters finds themselves holding up at the Starlight All Night Diner. As the realization of Armageddon sets in, the gang hatches a plan to avoid annihilation by traveling back in time through the use of a coffee pot time machine. With the space-time continuum in flux, we learn that love may be the only thing holding our heroes together and loss may drive them apart.
The play feels like a cross between Back to the Future and Lost in Space with a plot line oddly similar to Waitress. While this may sound like a weird hodge-podge of cultural references, the play is a testament to the explorational nature of the Know Theatre and their commitment to producing new work. The play is weird and delightful, with a decent balance between humor and existential philosophy. Audiences will laugh, cry, and question their existence.
Bruce’s writing is strong on the humor but also allows for meaningful moments to be created between characters as the play progresses. Plot-wise, this creates a fairly predictable rotational formula where characters are paired off in various combinations. Bruce also creates extended private moments with characters one-on-one as a strategy for character development but in a few cases, solo scenes felt a bit long and a little over paced. As though asteroids, time travel, and the subsequent love story wasn’t enough, Bruce throws in LGBTQ themes including coming out, bisexuality, and lesbian relationships. Given our three female characters are all of the feminine persuasion, we’re left to wonder what was Dr. Moxie thinking when he turned on the time machine in the first place. As a theatre goer, it’s refreshing to see a story featuring a same-sex, interracial relationship and while the LGBTQ themes were present throughout, it didn’t feel heavy handed or overplayed. More so, it’s a queer story that allows other themes to take center stage.
Lormarev Jones delivers an engaging performance as Sam, Starlight’s resident maintenance worker and do-gooder. Sam is deeply in love with Jessica, played by Leah Strasser, Starlight’s overworked, and very pregnant, waitress who dreams of a better life. Jones and Strasser create strong chemistry on stage and play well off one another. The pair take an emotional ride as the play progresses which is heightened by the discovery of a betrayal in the latter half of the play.
Michael Burnham, as Dr. Moxie, plays an exuberant astrophysicist who tries to save the group from certain death by hatching a plan to travel through time. His plan goes slightly awry when the group travels more than 65 million years and lands in the Late Cretaceous Period. Burnham’s enthusiastic performance is well matched by Maggie Cramer who delivers a youthful and exciting performance as Danni, an overachieving grad student working with Dr. Moxie. Their relationship is a bit strange and blurs the line between paternal and romantic undertones. Despite this, the pair are delightfully comedic and at times a bit silly. Given our premise includes a coffee pot time machine, a bit of silliness is to be expected which makes the meaningful moments all the more unexpected.
The play is complimented by a simple yet effective set with scenic and lighting design by Andrew Hungerford. The set feels reminiscent of something from Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy with the main focal point being a stunning and multifaceted lighting fixture suspended over the stage. Hungerford’s set is well matched by sound and video by Douglas Borntrager which adds depth, texture, and immersive soundscapes. Watching our heroes travel through a time wormhole and reach an event horizon is a particularly nice touch.
Directed by Alice Flanders, the play runs 75 minutes without an intermission. Given the hip and casual atmosphere of the Know, audience members should take advantage of the bar and hang out both pre and post show for a full experience. Since Know is Cincinnati’s premier theatrical playground, there is no shortage of things to do and see as part of their late night and downstairs programming.
At its heart, Starlight All Night is fundamentally about love, loss, and relationships. How they are weird, quirky, and full of paradox. To Sam’s point, we’re all just star stuff, and star stuff is part of something bigger. If you’re looking for something fun and funky with a nice balance of substance, check out Always Plenty of Light at the Starlight All Night Dinner at the Know Theater.