Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The play is set in and around the large and abandoned "Concord Floral" greenhouse, which has become a haven for trespassing teens to party, do drugs, and have sexual escapades. The plot begins when two girls, Rosa Mundi and Nearly Wild, go to the warehouse late one evening to party with their friends. When they go off to smoke pot, Rosa accidentally drops her phone in one of the many holes in the floor of the warehouse that open up to the floor below. Nearly uses her phone flashlight to try to locate Rosa's phone when the girls are horrified to see the dead body of a teenage girl on the floor below. The girls swear not to tell anyone, especially the police, but the news leaks out to their classmates. When Nearly starts to get phone calls from Rosa's phone, which they never recovered, from a person claiming to be the dead girl, her friends shun her, thinking she's lying and just trying to be the center of attention. But as several of the students reveal secrets of their own, and many of them have trouble sleeping, the truth of what happened to the girl and a shared sense of doom and dread become apparent amongst all of the teens who it turns out each had some part in the girl's fate.
Jordan Tannahill has crafted a thought-provoking and interesting drama with a plot straight out of a modern psychological suspense film. My understanding is that the piece was worked on and shaped over several productions, but it still seems like there are a few missing parts that, if added, would help tie it all together better. As it is now, while there are some great chills and original plot twists, not everything is entirely clear when the 80-minute, one-act play comes to an end. However, Tannahill's dialogue is fresh and truthful and sounds like something you'd hear come from the mouths of modern teenagers. Also, the sense of doom and dread is strong, as is the inclusion of peer-pressure and bullying aspects, along with the many personal struggles several of the characters reveal, all helping to ground the work in current times.
Tannahill also includes a theatrical element that could turn some people off. This includes having several of the cast portray inanimate objects or animals that tell us their stories and their connection to the warehouse or the students, such as a fox who uses the warehouse for nesting, a bird who got trapped inside and kept bashing its head against the window in desperation to escape, an old abandoned couch revealing some of the sordid things that have taken place on its cushions, and the warehouse itself, serving as a narrator for the play. I liked this aspect of the play, as it shows how it isn't only the students who are drawn to the warehouse, but others, especially those coming for a play they believe will be focused on surreal horror, may find it odd.
Tannahill also uses Giovanni Boccaccio's series of novellas "The Decameron," from 1370, as a way to mirror the events in the play, by having it be a book that the teens in the play are studying in school. In "The Decameron," a group of teenagers seek refuge in a villa to escape the Black Plague. However, it's only mentioned fleetingly and unless you know of the work, you'd have no knowledge of the connection and similarity between it and Concord Floral. There are also a lot of metaphors in the piece that, while interesting, may go over the heads of any audience member who doesn't have some knowledge of the play. I'm sure a second viewing of the play would fill in some gaps and make these other works and metaphors have even more meaning to the events in the piece.
Mace Archer's direction is superb. His cast create unique characters and bring honesty to their portrayals, and his staging makes excellent use of Kara Thomson's effective set design, which uses a shell of a structure to depict the warehouse. The creative elements help to evoke the eerie nature crucial to the plot. Josh Hontz's sound design is a knock-out, filled with spooky sound effects and ambient noise to create a creepy aural soundscape, and the lighting design by Troy Buckey uses shadows to play up the suspenseful elements. Ashley Gamba's excellent costumes are character specific.
As Nearly Wild, Meghan Perales beautifully evokes the guilt and fear of a woman who is haunted by the young girl she believes she may have some responsibility for her demise. Maya Shumway is equally as good as the rebellious Rosa. As the girl who is the victim of cruelty and bullying, Mikayla Houseman is spookily serene. Donovan Blau and Alyssa "L" Walsh deliver strong performances as two students who deliver frank monologues about sexual experiences where their vulnerabilities are exposed.
MCC requires all audience and cast members to wear a face mask covering their nose and mouth and, even though the cast was all wearing microphones, this did create a few issues in the clarity and volume of the dialogue for some of the cast at the performance I attended.
While it's not perfect, Concord Floral is still a haunting contemporary ghost story that will most likely stay with you for days after seeing it.
Concord Floral runs through October 23, 2021, at Mesa Community College, Southern & Dobson Campus, 1833 W. Southern Avenue, Mesa AZ. Information can be found at www.mesacc.edu.
Directed by Mace Archer