“Abby & Ethan” opens at Capri Theater

Playwright, producer and director L. Alan Mason’s original play comes to life in Minneapolis through Saturday, April 9.


Paul Patane

The first showing of “Abby & Ethan” was on Wednesday, March 23 at Capri Theater in Minneapolis.

Paul Patane, A&E Editor

Mixing what’s familiar with what’s new, L. Alan Mason’s “Abby & Ethan” revisits the 1990s and early 2000s, fleshing out a world of new characters with angst, pop culture, dark humor and a little history.

Some of the play’s components we’ve seen before. Undergraduates Ethan (Dylan Olmsted) and Abby (Alexis Roy) fall in love while looking to build their respective identities and futures, influenced by friends, family and school. Each desperate for acceptance, love and perhaps a bit misguided—they make sacrifices, thinking it’s the easiest way to find happiness and success, until one of those decisions permanently drives a wedge into their relationship.

Confused, scared for her future and socially liberal in her beliefs—Abby discovers she’s pregnant and immediately decides she’s going to have an abortion, regardless of what drug dealer and more socially conservative Ethan wants.  Beyond exceptional acting, the couple’s strained relationship encapsulates a fresh take on the otherwise familiar abortion story by reversing the roles of sex and letting the play diverge in new and organic ways from there.

The leads, Olmsted and Roy impress not just as capable actors, but as a believable real-world couple. Often semi-nude, they’re unstable emotionally but able to ground their characters and the world they inhabit with humor practical to an undergraduate setting.

Olmsted (left) and Roy (right) play against each other as Ethan and Abby, a struggling couple.
Paul Patane
Olmsted (left) and Roy (right) play against each other as Ethan and Abby, a struggling couple.

Rounding out Ethan and Abby’s household is a couple of friends who hold their own well but add additional depth and substance when teamed together: roommates Angel (Katherine Gentner) and Guy Forget (Matthew Saxe), who share a modest studio apartment with Ethan and Abby. The interactions between the four are often humorous, bold and enlightening.

Other cast members include: Barbie the Vampire (Gina Hamilton), Stoner Life (Mahmoud Hakima), Phoebe (Greta Hanson), Jimmy (Alex Dehaut) and Kelly Dehaut, who plays both Mrs. D’Agostino and Professor Dorchester. Each character—regardless of stage time, has a unique voice, serves a specific purpose and adds something to the narrative no one else can.

As original, well-crafted and resourceful as the production is, there is a handful of unnaturally long pauses in some of the inner-act transitions that force viewers to overanalyze small segments of the story, cutting off moments that otherwise build tension. While many of the individual scenes often work well, the over-deployed transitions lose their effect and become more of a distraction than an aide, leaving one to wonder if they may be more effective if they were to be consolidated and streamlined into already existing larger scenes.

Featuring exceptional costumes, sound design and props, Mason’s ambitious story developed when he was a college student. After graduating and a period of revisions, he decided it was time to bring the play to life.

“There’s been a lot of drafts from the script to now,” Mason said, emphasizing the play shown at Capri Theater is on its 28th draft. He elaborated that while “Abby & Ethan” doesn’t speak to who he is as a person now, aspects of the play reminisce to his past experiences, relating to who he used to be.

The play takes full advantage of revisiting the 1990s, offering fun yet meaningful pop culture references including “Blossom,” “Melrose Place,” “Family Matters” and “Say Anything.” Mason’s play also delves into music and the Goth scene of the 90’s. Even for those not familiar with pop culture of the time, the references are subtle enough to not spoil the moment.

Ultimately, many of the play’s moments are surreal and borderline meta, highlighted by a cast devoted to craft and telling an original story, showcasing a story that’s rooted in real-world issues with dark humor. While some small scenes and transitions misfire, the overall play itself is ambitious and worthy of admission.

Utilizing a couple five minute intermissions, “Abby & Ethan” is divided into three acts and runs approximately two hours in length. For more information about the play, its creator, cast, crew and the Capri Theater, visit: http://minnesotaplaylist.com/calendar/show/abby-ethan. Shows run through Saturday, April 9.