“Hope and Gravity” was not what I expected it to be as the Hilltop Players pieced together a story far more interesting than what I had in mind. From beginning to end (or middle to end to beginning?) the cast had me hooked on a funny, serious tale of both hope and gravity, literally and figuratively.
Now, in The Trumpet’s preview article that I co-wrote a few weeks ago, the summary description, as brief as it was, was way off. After reading some plot descriptions, including the one on playwright Michael Hollinger’s website, I believed that the entire show took place in a crashed elevator with the nine characters discovering their connections with each other all in one setting. The show actually takes place in carefully laid-out segments that reveal bits and pieces of the characters’ lives, slowly fitting the pieces of the puzzle together.
The show is split into two acts, but the whole timeline forces you to distinguish the beginning and ending for yourself. Adjunct Professor Maggie Balsley’s direction is shrewdly phenomenal and works seamlessly with Assistant Theater Professor Meta Lasch’s sleek set design, both of which allow the actors to reel in complete focus.
I commend the cast for their genuine performances. While a few of the jokes kind of fell flat, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the performances. Each actor played a human being unique to themselves without trying to stand out or steal the spotlight, and that’s why they all shined in their own way. The “Puzzle” roles were pretty cool, too; they literally pieced the story together at the end of every scene.
The charming and believable ensemble includes students Carly Balog (Puzzle Two), Alex Burdick (Barb), Anthony Hood (Marty), Sarah Lemley (Jill), Amanda Mandirola (Puzzle One), Zac Morris (Hal), Sydney Nicholson (Puzzle Three), Chris Rees (Peter), Jed Shook (Douglas), Grant Van Camp (Steve), Destiny Walsh (Nan) and Ingrid Young (Tanya).
One shout out goes to Rees. He went from initially acting like a creepy scumbag to making the audience laugh out loud with in the second act.
The overall experience was very genuine. There were no frills, just honesty. Small details here and there added to the charming event, from the sounds of an elevator that filled the room before the first act to the participation of piecing together an actual puzzle during intermission. It was enjoyable and made for a fun evening; I pity the girl who sat in front of me and spent the entire time texting.
“Hope and Gravity” continues in the Kelly Theatre of West Liberty University’s Fine Arts Building tonight, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 26 at 3 p.m.