Now extended — Reykjavík will remain available for on-demand streaming until June 27, 2021.
Plays that feature a series of short scenes with different characters whose relationships to each other become clearer as the story goes on have been popular since Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde in 1920, with that plot structure influencing films such as 1994’s Pulp Fiction. This type of show works well for multiple reasons. It provides the actors multiple roles in which to demonstrate the range of their talents, it allows the playwright creative license to tell many disparate tales within one show and thematically it reminds the audience that everyone, rich and poor, is connected to one another. Steve Yockey’s clever and imaginative Reykjavík is such a play, and the current production by The Road Theatre Company is funny, surprising and finally emotionally moving.
The play is set in the city of Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, a place in which the everyday and the magical may intersect with more frequency. The first scene, “Jawbone,” follows the conversation of three men in a club. Tourist James (Stephen Tyler Howell) is there to see the Northern Lights for personal reasons, but two locals, Martin (Brian Ibsen) and Grigor (Carlos Lacamara) have ideas of their own for him. “Twelve Ravens” follows the unusual communication between dating couple Ross (Ibsen) and Mike (Danny Lee Gomez) and a dozen of the titular birds perched outside their hotel window. “Bittersweet” depicts the twists and turns of the relationship between Robert (Ibsen) and the young man he visits in a cellar for sex, Hank (Howell).
“Tongues” reveals the startling bedroom revelations between new lovers, Ebon (Howell) and Peter (Gomez), while “Incisor” dissects the faults in the relationship of Aaron (Lacamara) and Davey (Gomez) in a public setting which proves less than safe. “Wild Game” concerns two women who work in a bar, Valerie (Jacqueline Misaye) and Ingrid (Alaska Jackson), who meet for the first time when the place is closing late at night. They strike sparks of romantic interest, but Valerie is certain that she’s seen Ingrid somewhere before. The story concludes with “Aurora Borealis,” which features a touching reunion of previous characters and the presence of Icelandic supernatural beings, the Huldufólk.
Howell is terrific as the naïve James and the gently remarkable Ebon, but he’s a standout as the deceptive Hank, switching from seductive to cruel from moment to moment in a bravura performance. Ibsen exudes smiling menace as Martin and excels as the confused and angry Robert, a man struggling to stay within his views of morality. Lacamara is quite good as the older Aaron trying to appease a younger lover, but is even better as hotel concierge Leo attempting to explain the odd avian situation to his guests. Gomez is strong in multiple roles, but his delivery of Peter’s dramatic monologue about his not quite coming out of the closet story is a highlight. Misaye is delightful and energetic as the cheerful Valerie, and she gives a lovely and delicate performance as a character I cannot reveal here. Finally, Jackson is memorably good as the straightforward and yet mysterious Ingrid and brings a sense of sympathy and seriousness as one of the Huldufólk.
Director Ann Hearn Tobolowsky gets excellent work from her talented ensemble, effective in both comedic and dramatic moments. The production team does a great job of swiftly creating new locations for each scene, benefiting especially from Paul Dufresne’s set design and Derrick McDaniel’s lighting design. Yockey’s writing is smart and witty, and the way in which he weaves the characters together into a cohesive whole is expert. But the most notable thing about his writing here is his creativity, and the deftness with which he introduces elements of the fantastic into otherwise normal settings. Yockey has a skill for this that he has demonstrated in other plays (The Fisherman’s Wife, Very Still & Hard to See), and it adds a distinctive touch to his work. It’s also worth mentioning that all of the romantic relationships in this play are gay or lesbian, presented in such a matter-of-fact, low-key way that it leads one to wonder why there aren’t more shows like this.
Reykjavík is an impressive production of an intriguing and entertaining play, and it’s one of the best streaming theatre presentations of the year.
Reykjavík, produced by The Road Theatre Company, is streaming through June 13, 2021. Tickets are available at www.RoadTheatre.org.