Parking Lot Lonely Heart
nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
November 24, 2008
Playwright Colin McKenna has a theory, whether he's aware of it or not, that heartbreak doesn't always come knocking on the door as a seductive lover waiting to wound you down the road. Sometimes, heartbreak shows up as the choices you made long ago that prove to be uncorrectable, no matter how hard you may wish to redeem yourself. Like a tiger that can't change his stripes, Mickey, the alcoholic lead in McKenna's moving new play Parking Lot Lonely Heart, keeps trying to fix the sins of his past.
Cinematic both in scope and execution, and with a darkly comic, modern noir-ish feel to it, the world premiere of Parking Lot Lonely Heart is haunting, heartbreaking, and ultimately a triumph of hope over life's setbacks. McKenna has authored a nuanced portrait of two semi-lost souls and their stumble through the strange labyrinth of life. Kudos are to be awarded not only to McKenna, but to the terrific direction from Philip Emeott and the excellent production values from the reliable Boomerang Theatre Company for adding this insightful piece to their fall repertory.
Mickey (a compelling John Greenleaf) is a vacillating alcoholic who has chased away nearly everyone who has cared for him. In a strange twist of fate, he was awarded millions of dollars in a lawsuit with an unnamed Northeast city after getting plowed over by a commuter bus. With this fresh new start, a drunken Mickey calls an escort named Louise (Lillian Wright—who is positively brilliant in this role) to meet him in his car in a parking lot. Mickey is truly calling out for help and companionship rather than sex, which winds up feeling like a colossal waste of time for Louise. So he offers to rent her for a month (in some sort of Bizarro-Pretty Woman universe) just to hang out with him in his self-described McMansion. She reluctantly agrees and away we go into the inner workings of Mickey's tribulations.
Enter Mickey's high-school aged daughter Emma (Jamie Proctor), who gave up on her wasted dad a long time ago, hitting him up for drug money as she lives underneath bridge overpasses with her thug boyfriend Larry (Craig Lee Thomas). As Mickey tries to buy his way back into people's lives, he tries to cure himself of both his afflictions and his tendencies to overprotect people he cares about. McKenna does a terrific job of highlighting how Emma and Louise respond, respectively, to sober Mickey and drunk Mickey, without resorting to lengthy monologues or preachiness.
The plot of Parking Lot Lonely Heart takes a number of hairpin turns, and Emeott does a commendable job of getting some terrific shading from all four members of the ensemble. Though there are a few scenes about three-quarters of the way through the piece that trip up the overall pacing, Emeott conducts the actors into hitting a majority of the right notes. Boomerang's production team, including some nice sound design from Megan Henninger, versatile set design from Nikki Black, and a terrific choice to use projections, adds a lot of value to the experience.
Parking Lot Lonely Heart isn't a happy-go-lucky fable. Every character falls quite a bit short of perfect. But it feels real, and in these times, it's strangely satisfying to watch art echo the dark mood that seems to envelop the city. It certainly helps to have a script from a talent like McKenna and a great effort from Boomerang to make it live.