Extinction, a play by Gabe McKinley, opened on Thursday, March 30 at Guild Hall in East Hampton. This very intense drama with exploding energy in almost every line is performed just mere feet from all the seats. Due to the concept of “Theater in the Round,” every audience seat, in essence, is in both bedrooms of the set. You are right there to see the sweat, hear the breathing in between the lines and catch every nuance in the actors’ facial expressions. There is no need for microphones – you are that close, you become that locked into the action, making it an unmissable Hamptons theater experience.
Kudos to Director Josh Gladstone and Producers Sawyer Spielberg and Raye Levine, who both star in the play along with Eric Svendsen and Brynne Kraynak. Gabe McKinley’s writing has a raw power and cadence that is shocking, entertaining and gifted. Without great writing there cannot be a great show, and Extinction has excellent writing.
The play takes place in the Borgata Hotel at Atlantic City in 2007. A reunion of college buddies to perhaps have a weekend of sex, drugs, and gambling becomes a drama of raw emotions that covers, loss through death, new love, family issues and the complexities of emotions both career success and failure can bring.
With perhaps 75 percent of all the lines in the play, Eric Svendsen, who plays Max, is brilliant. He charges, cajoles, shouts, and whisper-pleads all of his lines with the energy of an undefeated young stud bull in a Spanish bullring. His presence and energy keeps this up-tempo play charging forward right to the surprise ending.
Sawyer Spielberg, who plays Finn, Max’s intellectual former college buddy, on the cusp of his PHD in literature, starts off a touch slower power-wise, playing off Svendsen. However the fire within his mind ignites slowly throughout the play due to the many inner conflicts between his reality and desires. This is when Sawyer’s portrayal of Finn evolves into pure genius of conflict. All of the sudden the power of Finn’s dialogue shifts as the center force of the play, as he battles morality and earthly desires fueled by drugs and the specter of sex. At the end of the show, Max and Finn are going toe-to-toe creating the best of real live stage drama.
Brynne Kraynak brings a special humanity to her sympathetic portrayal of Missy, the single mother of a sick girl hardened to earning money on the side as a limited, part time call girl. Throughout the second act of the play I found myself rooting for her. With the audience and every seat so very close, it was most likely not easy for her to play her role, yet she does brilliantly.
Lastly, Raye Levine enters the show as Victoria, the leggy, naïve, first timer who Missy calls in to perhaps make some easy money. The brilliance of Raye’s performance wasn’t how she delivered her few lines, but how she reacted to everyone else’s lines. She represents both innocence being spoiled by events beyond her control and the alluring power of beautiful pure youth. On both accounts, Raye Levine gets accolades.
Where Are They Going Theatre Company, in association with the Barefoot Theatre Company, brought Extinction to Guild Hall. Once again Josh Gladstone shows his brilliance navigating every square inch of the John Drew Theater Stage of Guild Hall as Director. Besides being a co-producer, Raye Levine also did the Scenic Design, and with the help of Joe Brondo, also created a Neon Projection Design that brought a unique feel to the set. Dionisio Cortes is the Design Associate. Besides playing Missy, Brynne Kraynak also handled the Costume Design. Sawyer Spielberg also tripled up on producing and starring to also handle Prop Design. The lighting is under the supervision of Sebastian Paczynski and Eric Svendsen is overseeing the Sound Design. Dan Renkin is the Fight Director.
Extinction has a value way beyond its modest ticket price. Besides thrilling you with an amazing theater experience, it will introduce you to some actors who have stardom in their immediate future. The drama, the writing, the youthful yet professional energy of the acting will make you glad you attended.
Extinction will run Thursday, March 30 through Sunday, April 16. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $23 for members, and $15 for students under 18-years-old.
The John Drew Theater in the Dina Merrill Pavilion at Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, call 631-324-0806 or visit www.guildhall.org.