November 22nd was a somewhat cold and rainy day. And while it was bleak outside, @SkimMilkProject and I decided to warm up at The Smith before we made our way to Long Island City for The Distilled Theatre Company production of Long Distance Drunk.
Long Distance Drunk is a new play written by Corey Pajka, a young playwright from Brooklyn with a keen sense of hipsterdom and witty banter, and directed by Sharone Halevy. The play is about two young people, Cameron (Paul Eddy) and Meg (Marlowe Holden), who forge a relationship in college based around music, movies, books, and beer. Years later, as their relationship cracks, and their addictions deepen, they go their separate ways and create new lives for themselves. After overcoming their dependencies, they discover the only thing they were ever addicted to was each other. Closeness drove them apart, but distance may bring them back together.
I was pleasantly surprised by the wittiness, familiarity and warmth of Long Distance Drunk. While it had its fair share of overindulgent pretentious speeches, the conversations are less preachy, logical, and serve as more of character development. Paul Eddy tackles the language of the play with effortless charm. Eddy’s characterization and levity as Cameron manages to lure you into his spell and you quickly realize why the character Meg has fallen for Cameron. Marlowe Holden as Meg is Paul Eddy’s antithesis without being shrill and annoying. Holden manages to walk that fine line to make Meg a like-able and deep character that the audience roots for. Brittany Parker’s music propels the story with its melancholy strumming and engagement with each action of the play.
Corey Pajka’s melodrama bends some rules regarding linear timelines in theatre. The action is played out disjointedly with flashbacks and fast forwards that don’t always make it easy to fit the puzzle together. I found myself being pulled out for certain scenes and asking myself, “Where and when are they?” Halevy’s direction helps smooth some of the wrinkles in the quilt-like timeline.
While the play is largely focused on addiction, there is little information given as to the why. Why would an addiction occur in a too-smart-for-his-own-good college student and a shy somewhat sheltered freshman? I’ve known my fair share of both kinds of people, and not one did drugs or became an alcoholic. Unfortunately, there is a small disconnect for me with Pajka’s writing and the reason he gives for being dependent on substances. However, the brilliance of Pajka’s missing “why,” is the truth that anyone can fall prey to addiction, whether it is an addiction to exercise, drugs, alcohol, food, etc.
There were a number of standout moments in the play including a beautifully melodic confession opening the second act at both characters’ AA meetings. The juxtaposition of the characters works nicely in the scene creating a blender full of mixed emotions. Another scene perfectly suited for Holden and Eddy happens in front of the TV while each character “watches” the same program but in different places and presumably different times due to time zones. A religious program plays on the TV as Cameron heckles and Meg withdrawals. The harmony of the scene works as again Eddy shows his comedic side while Holden holds the dramatic side and pushes the story forward, reminding the audience that addiction is no laughing matter and causing conflicting emotions.
I was incredibly impressed with the performances in this wonderful drama. Standing ovation to Marlowe Holden and Paul Eddy. And of course kudos to Corey Pajka. Pajka’s story hit the depth it was looking for but could have left out the cliche ending. I felt thoroughly entranced by Long Distance Drunk and loved each and every one of the sad and funny moments.