Defenders is a smartly written unique take on the Person vs. Nature genre, coupled with an exceptionally talented cast, and one of the best set pieces I have seen in a BlackBox format makes this a clear winner.
Written by Caillin Maureen Harrison
Presented by Pandelia’s Canary Yellow Company
Directed by Reena Dutt
Broadwater Black Box 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038.
For more information and to purchase tickets, call (323) 960-5770 or go to www.Onstage411.com/defenders
The year is 1942. The British have already invaded Iceland and transferred the responsibility of its defense to the United States. Our story follows three American soldiers, Lt. Marcus Jansen (Bryan Porter) a college-educated, third-generation banker from New York, Sgt. Frank McKinley (Tavis Doucette), a traveling salesman by trade that hoping his relationship with his superior officer will pay off dividends if they manage to survive the war, and finally, Pvt. Fred LeFleur (Spencer Martin) fresh out of Bootcamp, hailing from Louisana he is the youngest of the group. Although what he lacks in experience, he makes up for it in heart and courage.
Tasked with the mission to scout ahead and start the process of building a staging ground against any Axis invaders, the trio is suddenly forced to seek shelter in a weathered local during an intense torrential storm that forced them to crash land and lose all their supplies. They have no food, minimal ammo, a jammed M1919 Browning machine gun, and a radio device that is barely in working order.
Once settled into the church, they encounter the local minister, Geir Styrsson (John P. Connolly), and his daughter Vigdis (Una Efferets). Despite the two’s hospitality, there is very much a sense of resentment between the two groups with Gier Styrsson having already felt the effects of the British occupation. The Americans don’t understand why they are not receiving as warm of a welcome as they expected. Styrsson informs them that the price of “protection” has often led to quite the detriment of the lives of the Icelandic locals.
At first, everything seems to go according to plan, but when a series of unexplainable occurrences strike malady to the soldiers and cause things to go awry, the G.I.’s find themselves at war not with physical forces but something seemingly entirely otherworldly. What follows is an intermission free ninety-minute adventure filled with moments of tense drama and creative storytelling.
The entire cast assembled does a terrific job of delivering consistent, believable performances. Throughout the show, there is an anticipation of danger to come, which at times can be hard to translate to the stage, but they rise superbly to the occasion.
Spencer Martin’s performance as Pvt. LeFleur is standout filled with such notes of sincerity and naivete, he absolutely delivers and helps elevate the talented cast.
The incredible set design deserves high praise; the church as a set piece itself feels like an additional character you can feel it moving and groaning amidst the storm. One of the best examples of making the most of the Broadwaters Blackbox space I have seen in recent memory.
I can’t recall a time where I saw WWII Drama staged in a small theatrical setting, much less one as entertaining as Defenders. If this production were just about American Soldiers vs. the Locals told with this cast and crew, it would make for a very entertaining night at the theatre and worth the price of the ticket. Add on top the layered nuances that come to play as the story evolves Defenders is more than just a story of military forces opposing each other. It is a glimpse into the mystical and supernatural, telling a story that there is more to the natural laws of the universe, even if we can’t see them.
Once again, Harrison and Pandelia’s Canary Yellow Company deliver a strong showing, I certainly recommend checking this one out.
The creative team for Defenders includes scenic designer David Goldstein, sound designer Jesse Mandapat and costume designer Shon LeBlanc. The production stage manager is Seira Murakami, and Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners produces.