“Write what you know,” goes the old adage to playwrights, so Lydia Stryk wrote a play about the aftermath of a debilitating car accident.
Like her fictional character Libby, Stryk was the victim of a collision between herself and an automobile driver. Or as Libby puts it with her dark, bitter humor, she met Anton by accident.
In An Accident, the latest area premiere from Primal Forces that showcases producer-director Keith Garsson’s kinky taste, when we first see Libby she is immobilized in a hospital bed with a crushed spine and only a vague memory of the supermarket parking lot encounter with a backing-out car that left her pinned beneath it.
Well, actually we see her standing by the bedside, staring at her paralyzed self, narrating events as if having an out-of-body experience. In a painkiller-induced haze, Libby seems to recall an intruder in her room. Eventually we learn it was high school history teacher Anton, the driver of the vehicle, who has come out of pity and guilt, perhaps in hopes of forgiveness or at least some sort of closure.
For this 75-minute two-hander, Garsson reunites two key cast members from Reborning – Elizabeth Price and Nicholas Wilder. She is limited in her movement throughout most of the play, but the actress lets us see inside her head, which gradually regains its sharpness and cynicism. She plays on Anton’s awkwardness, demanding that he dance for her. And in a scene that is wrenching in its intimacy, she draws him into physical contact that she can see but not feel.
Price’s natural sunniness is in apt contrast to the dire situation that Libby finds herself in. As her program bio notes, she too suffered an accident similar to Libby’s just months ago, which surely contributed to the authenticity of her performance. Wilder projects many shades of anguish, allowing himself to be comfortable only when lecturing Libby on Civil War battlefields.
Yes, the two characters grow close emotionally in a way that is not entirely persuasive, like some warped variation on Stockholm syndrome. But if playwright Stryk lets us down in her resolution, Price and Wilder almost convince us otherwise.
Bombshell Productions’ scenic design is a head-scratcher. Instead of a hospital room, the play takes place in a translucent cave, lit by Nate Sykes with varicolored beams. Surely Garsson did not want to evoke memories of Cuddles – the final show of his that ended the theater program at the Arts Garage – but the set did bring it to mind.
An Accident is one of Garsson’s better discoveries, a quirky exploration of loss and recovery, made memorable because of its performers.
AN ACCIDENT, Primal Forces at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive, Fort Lauderdale. Through Sunday, May 27. $30. 866-811-4111.