“Suspended” At Upstream Theater Doesn’t Leave The Audience Dangling

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Phillip C. Dixon and Reginald Pierre in “Suspended” at Upstream Theater. Photo: ProPhotoSTL.com

Opening their 12th season, Upstream Theater brings us an insightful one act that draws two former friends together and then seems to force them apart in “Suspended” by Israeli playwright Maya Arad Yasur. The title, the play itself and even the two characters seem to be metaphors for their lives and perhaps life in general.

As the audience enters, the two window washers hang suspended high over a big city behind a wall of non-existent glass. One is in plain sight, the other we just see his feet dangling above the top of the stage. They eventually settle in next to each other as Benjamin awkwardly lowers the ropes holding his small wooden seat that has his bucket, washer, squeegee and more hanging as precariously as he is. His friend Isaac has recommended him for the job which he claims is an easy way to make a buck.

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Reginald Pierre wipes the window during the Upstream Theater production of “Suspended.” Photo: ProPhotoSTL.com

The two are immigrants have escaped a war ravaged country and, after some idle chatter about their homeland, they begin to delve deeper into their relationship and what happened before they were forced to leave. Benjamin probes while Isaac seems reluctant to go down that path. We eventually come to the crux of the problem that forced Isaac to do something rather despicable to allow Benjamin’s sister to escape an even more heinous fate.

But the journey is the entertaining part of this play as the two banter, scold each other- in particular Isaac reprimanding Benjamin for not bringing anything to eat. He shares his food and they seem to be settling back into a friendship until old wounds are reopened.

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Phillip C. Dixon as Benjamin and Reginald Pierre as Isaac in “Suspended” at Upstream Theater. Photo: ProPhotoSTL.com

Reginald Pierre is a solid actor and he proves to be most capable seated in the same spot and only the occasional swipe of a large cloth-like sponge and the follow up wipe of a squeegee to break the monotony of not being able to move around the stage. Phillip C. Dixon is also wonderful as his friend Benjamin who drops the pithy and even sarcastic line from time to time. They have the camaraderie of old friends and make watching window washers highly gratifying. They often comment about the folks inside the “window” and wonder if they know they’re really being spied on. Benjamin even waxes philosophic on this phenomenon as he wonders since the stains are mostly on the inside- meaning the people they can never aspire to be- why are they wasting their time washing the outside.

Another great St. Louis actor and director, Linda Kennedy, has directed “Suspended” with a great feel for getting the most out of two actors on stage for over and hour and being physically stagnant. They move, jostle and even almost fall at one point, but the play and their dialogue is the thing and Ms. Kennedy makes the most of it.

The rest of the technical team also shine as the inspired set of Cristie Johnston is a marvel and the lights of Tony Anselm not only make the most of their suspended life but also indicates the passage of time and other significant moments within the play. Linda Kennedy also designed the appropriate costumes and Dan Strickland brings a nice sound design to the proceedings including appropriate traffic and other outdoor noises- subtle but effective. And, for the first and probably last time in any program anywhere, there’s even a credit for window washing consultant- that’s Matt Johnson. But hey, the guys have to look authentic.

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Phillip C. Dixon and Reginald Pierre wash windows and discuss life during the Upstream Theater production of “Suspended.” Photo: Pro PhotoSTL.com

As usual, Upstream Theater brings us provocative and thoughtful theatre. “Suspended” is a story that unfolds slowly but gets to the heart of the matter. Thanks to two outstanding performances and excellent direction, “Suspended” becomes a show that you shouldn’t miss. It plays at the Kranzberg Center and you can give them a call at 314-863-4999 for tickets or more information.

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