It’s a timeless question; what does it mean to be truly alive? In just under 15 minutes, Alive by Flying Solo! Presents offers us a humorous yet poignant answer. The storyline is simple, but its themes – death, freedom, life choices, dreams, and happiness – are universal and profound. Set in the living room of young married American couple Jacob and Ashley, the play opens with his return from an antique store. Among his purchases is a conspicuous urn, sparking a tumultuous discussion that unearths the complexity of their relationship.
Alive succeeds throughout the seamless course from the absurd beginning of their conversation, to its fraught peak, to its moving aftermath, and, finally, to its deliriously happy conclusion. I particularly enjoyed the crescendo from the ridiculous discussion about whether the urn should hold their ashes, to the more pressing question of Ashley’s unhappiness in their current location (where they recently moved from California). “This is about LA, isn’t it?” asks Jacob, after she insists that their ashes should be set free rather than stuffed in the urn. Ashley sarcastically claims that even if her ashes blew back to LA, where she could audition for films, it wouldn’t matter. “I guess you can only do the stuff you want to while you’re alive,” she quips. As Jacob attempts to address this sore subject, Ashley eventually erupts, claiming that she’s lost her friends, life and career, and feels trapped here. When she’s dead, she would finally like to feel free and alive.
The seamlessness of the trajectory of the play is thanks to the quick-witted dialogue between the characters and its excellent delivery by Ben and Caitlin Hilzer (who are a married couple in real life). Considering its premise is so morbid, the script, written by Jenny Stafford, is unexpectedly hilarious, especially at the beginning when the couple exchange jokes, such as about an antique tiny sculpture which Jacob brings home. “Someone got divorced over that,” says Ashley, clearly unimpressed. Banter bounces between them effortlessly, with each taking the other’s jibes in their stride and offering an equally witty retaliation. The foreshadowing and symbolism throughout the production, meanwhile, complement the writing with a sense of sophistication and completion.
Though this is a clearly a marriage full of humour, the aftermath of their argument reveals a much more tender side to their relationship, where Jacob admits he’s scared of losing her and Ashley admits she hasn’t made much effort since they moved. The physical affection between the characters feels very raw here, with Ashley caressing Jacob’s head in her lap. Here, the living room setting enhanced the intimacy of their interaction: I felt like a fly on the wall, privy to such an emotional encounter.
Aside from the fact the ending felt a little too cutesy for me, Alive succeeds as a feel-good, life-affirming production. I thoroughly enjoyed its message, that truly living means finding pleasure in the simplicity of ordinary life.
Words by Reem Ahmed.
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