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Sixty Miles to Silver LakeTheater Review

by Harvey Perr

published January 23, 2009


Sixty Miles to Silver Lake

now playing Off Broadway at the Soho Rep

through February 8


It starts conventionally enough. Denny, a jittery and seething young Soccer player, who lives with his mom in Orange County, is driving with Ky, his well-meaning but clueless father, to Silver Lake, where Ky has moved since separating from Denny’s mother, for the weekend they share together. Their all too familiar chatter has more than a ring of truth to it; it is the precise talk of divorce and disaffection and it produces the kind of laughter that accompanies a sour feeling down in one’s gut. You’ve been there before, but this one has teeth. Thus the ferociously talented Dan LeFranc begins his Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, which is Soho Rep’s newest adventure in the exciting world of discovering new playwrights.


I know the route Ky and Denny take and, since we are told that the play is eighty minutes long, it is reasonable to assume that, by the time the play ends, Ky and Denny will reach their destination. But LeFranc has something else in mind, and I’m not sure that getting where you are going is what it is.  What LeFranc has in store for us is a series of mind jams that would make a traffic jam seem like bliss by comparison. We are taken instead on a trip through hell from which a highway offers no escape. And, if we end up where we started, it is not altogether certain that we haven’t really moved.


Of course, the car is the third character and the one that Dane Laffrey has designed is as full of rage and nearly as brutalizing as its passengers. And Dane DeHaan is so good as Denny that he doesn’t seem to be acting at all; in his every movement, he is a spring about to uncoil. Sure, he wants to be liked, but no sooner do we sense his opening up to feeling than he just as suddenly withdraws into himself again. And the concentration he puts into blowing on his window speaks eloquently about the lonely life of a teenager. DeHaan and the car are ready for any journey they are asked to go on.


And LeFranc wants to take them through time and back, through childhood and adolescence to maturity and on as many return trips as possible, without ever seeing the light, with an almost burning desire to explore the midnight of their existence. LeFranc is already master of a difficult style, but he runs into a few problems. For one thing, he is limited by his subject matter: the ride is a thrill but the conversation, except when it gets refracted and turns on itself in ways that are funny and disturbing, is repetitive and a bit too ordinary.


And he is not always helped by Anne Kauffman’s strident direction or by Leah Gelpe’s sound design or by Tyler Micoleau’s lighting, which tend to stress hysteria of a kind but never fully capture the shifting emotional moods LeFranc is so good at creating. We don’t always hear clearly, as we should, the inner dialogues that punctuate the play in telling moments. And Joseph Adams, in the pivotal role of Ky, doesn’t take the necessary giant steps towards release as the play progresses.


When the car should pick up speed, in effect, it sputters and falters instead. Too often, there is confusion where there should be clarity. But, all things considered, Sixty Miles to Silver Lake introduces us to a very interesting new playwright and a terrific young actor. Dan LeFranc. Dane DeHaan. Remember those names. You’re going to hear from them again.


harveyperr @


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