By Peter Foldy
NEED TO KNOW is a play you need to see. Sharp, edgy dialogue, compelling performances and a story that bubbles with humor but gradually turns dark and menacing are just some of the welcome ingredients of this Rogue Machine World Premier by playwright, Jonathan Caren.
The story deals with a likable young couple, Lilly and Steven (Corryn Cummins and Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) who move back to New York from L.A. and soon encounter a dorky and somewhat creepy neighbor, Mark, (Tim Cummings) who lives in the apartment next door.
After inviting him in for a quick hello, they discover that Mark, like Lilly, is a novelist with a book about to be published.
Once Mark leaves, Lilly and Steven instantly hit google, finding out as much as they can about the man. As they mock his book concept, his mannerisms and his unbearable halitosis, they hear a noise from Mark’s apartment.
Are the walls really that thin? Did Mark just overhear what they were saying about him?
The proximity soon causes Steven and Lilly to tone down their conversations and become self conscious in their own apartment, even to the point of thinking twice about where they make love.
Before long there is a Facebook stalk-off, with both the couple and their neighbor compiling as much info about the other as available on line. Mark’s sharp mind allows him to accurately analyze his finding and pretty soon he has a credible concept of what Steven and Lilly are all about. It really isn’t that hard. It’s all there on line.
Mark uses what he knows to stir the pot and create tension in an already fragile relationship leading to a final confrontation that hint at dire consequences.
The smart script by Caren keeps the surprises coming. He also asks an important question. Can someone’s life story be accurately pieced together by following their Facebook timeline? The answer would seem to be yes. Most of us are quick to share every aspect of our existence, manipulating our story to suit our needs, not thinking that this could be used against us.
Just how much do people really need to know? And how often are we wrong about other people, misreading something innocent on line as something more?
Performances in Need to Know are outstanding. Tim Cummings gives a brilliant, nuanced turn as Mark, finding a nice balance here. Is his character a sad, lonely stalker with bad breath, or is there a kinder gentler soul lurking inside?
Lucas Near-Verbrugghe is excellent as Steven, the temperamental yet likable yuppie with a dark back story. Corryn Cummins as Lilly is spot on as the perfect buffer between these two men whose intensity toward each helps fuel the play.
Director, Bart DeLorenzo balances the tension with humor and ably guides his cast toward the surprising conclusion.
There is an impressive scenic design by Stephanie Kerley-Schwartz. She takes a tiny theater space and creates an environment that’s real and highly compliments the production.
Kudos also to Chu-Hsuan Chang’s lighting design and John Zalewski for sound.
Though there were no credits given, the music cues between scenes, and the underscore during the play also worked well to lift the tension and create emotion as needed.
Need to Know is a fast paced, highly entertaining piece of theater. It runs Saturdays at 5pm, Sundays at 7pm and Mondays at 8pm.
Where: Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 West Pico Blvd. Los Angeles 90019, (855) 585-518
Tickets: $34.99 for Saturday performances, $29.99 for Sundays and Mondays. www.roguemachinetheatre.com
Scheduled to End: December 13, 2015
Photos by: John Perrin Flynn