Dustin Loomis: He maintains a very engaging, very strong presence throughout the performance. Many solo shows can come across as either stagey, self-indulgent, slow or (worst of all) simply boring. He was none of these. He was Alan—and Alan (for all of his flaws) was always worth watching, worth listening to and worth trying to understand.
That takes some real talent and some true understanding of the material and some REAL comfort with yourself on stage. Dustin has all of it and it made the show well worth watching.
What I didn't like
The Story Structure: While this particular solo show is put together with a much better cohesiveness than many, there was still a strange feeling as I watched it that it circled around its ending multiple times. That it COULD have ended one or two times earlier in the circles than it did, and that maybe it SHOULD have. There are secrets buried in the narrative here—and those secrets are worth finding out about.
But we get to them…and then the story wasn’t quite over. And I wasn’t quite sure why not.
My overall impression
Surge was a late addition to my schedule for Sunday the 5th and it turned out to be a welcome one. Let’s be clear that solo shows are not my personal favorite type of show. They can often be self-indulgent. They can be too determined to be edgy to be coherent, too focused on getting a specific message across to allow anyone to shape the entire narrative correctly. This isn’t true of the best solo shows at all, of course—but it’s true of many. So I always approach solo shows with a little bit of trepidation.
Fortunately, Surge is a welcome experience that I was glad to have seen. It’s the story of Alan, a man whose past has fractured his present in ways that are deeper and more dangerous than we first realize. As we learn his story, we uncover the (at first wonderful and then gradually sadder and more poignant) truth that he’s the epitome of the untrustworthy narrator. His stories may not be true. His relation of the events of his life may be something we have to doubt. Or maybe they ARE true…but not as he remembers them. Or maybe they’re absolutely true, but the truth has shattered his ability to remember the truth itself.
Deep stuff. Painful stuff. And, like so many theatrical narratives in this century, relating back once more to the concept of terrorism. But this time not as directly as “terrorists are bad”. Instead, it’s about what the fallout of that moment of chaos DOES to someone. What might change because of one instant. Or what one instant of imagination might alter in a mind that contemplates it. It’s about icons that float to the surface and find their way to our hands and our hearts, literally and figuratively…whether we want them to or not.
Yep. Deep stuff. The stuff of deep waters. Like the waters of an ocean. Or a sea. Or Lake Erie itself. No wonder it wanted to flood his floor and wash Alan away.
If you can handle exploring the psyche of a lost and somewhat damaged mind, this might be the show for you. It was certainly something that made me think much more heavily and bravely than I expected—and in good, good ways.