August is a good time to drive out to a small, green town, sit in an air-conditioned theater, and let someone else's view of the human condition wash over you for a few hours.
I was in a heat-induced trance the Sunday afternoon I drove out to see Let It Be at the Purple Rose in Chelsea, and the passive-sounding title matched my mood just fine. Continuing to feed my inert frame of mind was the entire scheme of the play itself. Rather than watching characters as they move from place to place, here we watch one place — a hotel room — as sets of characters revolve through it, like a wheel of slides through an old View-Master.
There's something so satisfying about the place-centered storytelling device chosen by playwright Dennis North (Orphan Train). Perhaps we all harbor a suspicion that the unifying thread of our existence might be found in place, not person. The idea that the life of any individual is not as meaningful as the life of a hotel room — or a table at a cafe in Paris, or a bridge in San Luis Rey — is not a comfortable one to live by, but it's relaxing to let go of your hubris and at least visit the world from that vantage point for a few hours.
The scenes are mostly good stories. Two of them didn't work for me, and they were unfortunately the ones most prominently showcased. I preferred the stories that made use of the hotel room as a trap — four walls squeezing together people who are suddenly acutely aware that they don't want to be together.
You might think that a set that demands merely reproducing a cookie-cutter anonymous hotel room would be a virtual day off for a set designer, but here's a little exercise. How would you design this set? Now go see the play. You'll see why we aren't set designers and Andrew Gorney is.
Let It Be continues its run every Wednesday through Sunday through August 31.