Timothy L. Cabal and Nancy Ross in "Red Bike." Photo courtesy of Moxie Theatre
My first bicycle was a red one, and while I had my share of adventures with it, I never experienced a ride as wild as the one the 11-year-old kid (played concurrently by two actors) in Moxie Theatre's production of "Red Bike" does. Caridad Svich's 11-year-old (portrayed by Timothy L. Cabal and Nancy Ross) learns more about realities and priorities -- in other words, about life -- in one fateful ride than I did through all the years until I traded a bike for my first car. Svich's play is a non-linear, experiential (and some might say experimental) narrative that creates the illusion that this adolescent is learning on the fly and we're along for the ride so to speak.
As Svich, a grad of UCSD's MFA program, explained in her director's note for the Moxie production, "Time is flexible" in "Red Bike." The past, present and imagined future converge, sometimes it seems with the abruptness of screeching coaster brakes. At the same time, the story's one character is in the process of confronting fears, examining the physical and metaphorical constraints of small-town life, and coming to terms -- to the extent that an 11-year-old can -- with questions of identity.
It requires suspension of disbelief to accept that anyone of 11 years old would entertain such philosophizing and would throughout the 90-minute play give voice to some of the intellectually sophisticated insights accrued during. That's not asking too much. "Red Bike" speaks to the children in all of us as it recalls the children we once were: wide-eyed, in physical and emotional transition, and dwarfed by the convolutions of our world.
Still, it's the physicality of this production, admirably directed by Lisa Berger, that is so imposing. Cabal and Ross run, flit, leap, climb, jump, improvise pedaling and much more in twin gymnastic performances upon Alondra Velez's skateboard ramp of a set. They hide well the exhaustion that anyone might feel from such rigor.
It's not the non-linear nature of "Red Bike," however that renders this production wearying. What is decreed and derided and acknowledged in an hour and a half could have been decreed and derided and acknowledged in about 45 minutes, perhaps less. Beyond that your inquiring mind is apt to wander, even as you wonder at Cabal and Ross' endurance.
"Red Bike" runs through Feb. 16 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat