Boise Contemporary Theater's 2012-13 season has been a rollercoaster ride: Tigers Be Still and A Nighttime Survival Guide rocketed the black box theater skyward with elaborate props, sets and characters, while Damascus and Graphic Depictions yanked the season back down with sparse, one-person plays.
The concept of being drawn back to Earth is one that resonates with the main character in Graphic Depictions, Alexa. The middle-aged mom and graphic designer laments that the gray sky is slowly settling around her ears as her feet are being entangled in the earthen roots of adulthood. Through her wandering recollections--divided clearly into "before" and "after"--it becomes apparent that Alexa has suffered a great personal tragedy. As the play progresses, she feverishly develops a mysterious grand gesture to reintroduce blue skies into her life.
Eric Coble's eloquent and often humorous writing frames Alexa's memories beautifully. A young Alexa and her mother feel the air rush past their faces on evening bike rides "beyond the newly born wood and brick bones of the suburbs." An older Alexa juggles her young kids while preparing a birthday dinner for her husband, musing: "I wonder if it's true that you can taste the love in food? Because this cake would taste like high blood pressure."
In actress Tracy Sunderland's hands, Alexa's emotional extremes are artfully executed, as she vacillates from snarky asides to crumbling, tearful despair. But it's in the quieter moments that Sunderland falters, stumbling over words and staring off into the distance with forced intensity.
These hiccups are perhaps made more apparent by the play's simple set--a single chair, some painter's scaffolding and a paint-smudged tarp--which forces the audience to live solely in Alexa's murky mind. Thankfully, Raquel Davis' lighting helps to illuminate Alexa's meandering memories, dimming when she wanders into rough emotional waters and brightening when she snaps out of those thoughts.
But minor details aside, there's one major problem with Graphic Depictions. The big reveal that the play revolves around, the tragedy that so clearly bifurcates Alexa's life, is never fully explained. There are some beautifully described snippets, but the ramifications of the event are left for the audience to interpret.
While this tactic can be artful in some hands, here the play feels unfinished. After the final scene wrapped up opening night, the audience sat in the dark for a few seconds before applause began to trickle out tentatively.