Critic's Choice

Honeymoon central makes an existential backdrop in 'Niagara Falls'

'Niagara Falls' is a poster child for the kind of daring work possible only under L.A.'s 99-Seat Theater Plan

The landmark American honeymoon destination — in all its kitschy glory — provides the backdrop for a surreal roller coaster of romantic ideals and disappointments in “Niagara Falls” at Theatre of Note.

Smart, quirky and always engaging, this seriocomic tour de force explores mysteries of love, existence and human connection with the best precision staging a finely tuned, 12-member professional ensemble can deliver in an intimate space. It is a poster child for the kind of daring, thrilling, affordable experience that would not be possible without L.A.’s endangered 99-Seat Theater Plan.

Originally inspired by (though not directly adapted from) three poems by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, playwright Steve Yockey’s dream-like alternate reality — where tourists encounter visions of themselves going over waterfalls and a human body-shaped floor stain turns out to be a multidimensional portal — doesn’t lend itself to reductive summary.

Amid its loosely interlocking love stories, though, principal narrative arcs involve a new bride (Alina Phelan) and an amnesiac (Reamy Hall) who survived an accidental tumble over the falls. Both women — strangely similar in appearance — find themselves questioning their impulsive dive into relationships with men they hardly know (John Colella, Brad C. Light).

Niagara Falls proves a tourist trap in every sense of the word for other characters (Trevor H. Olsen, Debbie Jaffe, Alexis DeLaRosa, Travis York, Jenny Soo, Travis Moscinski) facing their own quandaries of the heart. Our shamanistic guides through this existential landscape are a bubbly hotel concierge (Kathy Deitch) and a genial Boardwalk carny (Garett Maggart).

Deconstructing romantic tropes with a volatile mix of confessional soul-searching and absurdist incongruity, Yockey’s distinctive theatrical vision also sports monologues delivered in pinpoint unison and sound effects voiced by a "Foley ensemble" of actors clad in raincoats from a Niagara Maid of the Mist boat ride — all perfectly realized under Ryan Bergmann’s  superb direction.

“Niagara Falls,” Theatre of Note, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 28. $25. (323) 856-8611 or www.theatreofnote.com. Running time: 90 minutes.

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