Hip thirtysomethings evaluating life and love is the foundation of Alena Smith’s 2016 contemporary comedy Icebergs, currently receiving an enjoyable local premiere at the Dayton Theatre Guild through Sunday, Dec. 15.
Set in Los Angeles on the Day of the Dead and adeptly directed by Debra Kent with realistic casualness befitting a laid-back get-together among close friends, Icebergs revolves around the latest film project from up-and-coming indie writer/director Calder (Maximillian Santucci, terrifically fretful and passionate). Calder has his heart set on adapting a melancholy memoir about a couple facing adversity at the North Pole, but situations aren’t going according to plan at work or at home. In fact, he’s without a major female star and has begun to second-guess his decision not to have initially offered the role to his aspiring actress wife Abigail (Sha-Lemar Davis, believably distraught and paranoid). As Calder deals with questions surrounding his film and Abigail grows uncertain about her career, their evening is broadened by the eventful arrivals of Calder’s old college buddy Reed (outstanding S. Francis Livisay), Abigail’s longtime friend Molly (quirky yet sophisticated Lorin Dineen) and Calder’s slick, supportive agent Nicky (admirable Titus Unger). Together, this opinionated quintet, nestled comfortably within the attractive suburban chic domain of set designer Chris Harmon, engages in a series of random, thought-provoking topics ranging from earthquakes, climate change and carbon footprints to parenthood, homophobia and social media.
Smith, who notably served as writer and producer of Showtime’s The Affair and also wrote for HBO’s The Newsroom, captures the spirited essence of L.A. to the tee. For example, if you’re a cinefile, you’ll love the references to Jessica Chastain, Kirsten Dunst, the Oscars, and Children of Men among others. But on a deeper level, she effectively uses Calder and Abigail’s marriage to expose the complexities of family planning, specifically whether or not it’s ever an apt time to bring innocent children into a world in which the odds seem stacked against them environmentally and socially. In particular, Davis, smoothly maintaining a sense of depressed unease throughout, excellently accelerates the stakes at play for the future of humanity. Elsewhere, the delightfully charismatic Livisay receives a prime moment of chilling reflection late in Act 2 as the previously upbeat Reed reveals details surrounding the racism he has encountered back home in Missouri.
Icebergs isn’t life-changing theater, but it’s certainly a refreshing change of pace for the Guild, in the midst of celebrating its 75th anniversary season. It’s been a while since this troupe, carrying an affinity for the classics and other works with a tendency to look back, has embraced a script containing a distinctively young, cool, profane, and progressive off-Broadway vibe. Seeing this wonderfully diverse cast feel the groove of Drake’s Hotline Bling is a hopeful sign that the Guild is prepared to take more risks, loosen up, and embrace the possibilities of unchartered territory.
Icebergs continues through Dec. 15 at the Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave., Dayton. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Act One: 55 minutes; Act Two: 40 minutes. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $13 for students. For tickets or more information, call (937) 278-5993 or visit daytontheatreguild.org. Patrons are advised the show contains strong adult language.