Theater / Film

Review: Science weighs in on a divorce in LakehouseRanch’s ‘push.’

Written By Christine Dolen
January 17, 2024 at 3:57 PM

Lucy Marie Lopez and Michael Fernandez play a divorcing couple in the world premiere of Mackenzie Raine Kirkman’s “push.” by LakehouseRanchDotPNG at Artistic Vibes in Kendall through Sunday, Jan. 21. (Photo courtesy of Juan Gamero)

In a second season filled with world premieres, Miami’s LakehouseRanchDotPNG has already presented four plays that, to varying degrees, hewed to its focus on absurdist or experimental theater.

The young company, mostly made up of Florida International University theater grads, is for the moment embracing greater realism with its fifth play, Mackenzie Raine Kirkman’s “push.”

Pedro Urquia is the Mediator in the LakehouseRanchDotPNG world premiere of Mackenzie Raine Kirkman’s “push.” (Photo courtesy of Juan Gamero)

With three performances remaining in a two-weekend run that began Jan. 12, “push.” is a play worth seeking out.  The company’s intimate rented space at Artistic Vibes in a Kendall-area warehouse district serves the play about a divorcing couple going through mediation; the audience’s proximity to the action dials up both discomfort and empathy as it learns the details of a shattered relationship.

Science and/or a whiff of absurdism enter the picture via the Mediator (Pedro Urquia), an official (court-appointed, maybe?) whose job it is to get the couple talking about their marriage so he can submit a report on whether the divorce should be granted.

He explains, pleasantly enough, the strict rules about how the session will be conducted.  And he has help:  A button at the center of the table where the couple is sitting lights up if it detects a lie or significant omission, giving the spouse who hasn’t been talking the chance to push the button and force the other to tell the truth. Not sure how that works, but it’s a device that inevitably takes the discussion deeper.

Michael Fernandez as Dad and Lucy Marie Lopez as Mom try to sort through the issues in their divorce in the world premiere of “push.” (Photo courtesy of Juan Gamero)

The warring couple is called Dad (Michael “Mikey” Fernandez) and Mom (Lucy Marie Lopez).  At this fraught moment (and he’s late for the session, which doesn’t help), they’re understandably tense and combative.  But as the Mediator gets them talking about the earlier days of their meeting and marriage, we come to understand why these opposites were attracted to each other and how the embers of love can still glow.

Artistic director Brandon Urrutia, who staged the play, cast it with actors who artfully convey the essence of their characters, often without words.

The willowy Lopez, who doubles as costume designer, lets her hand caress her small belly now and then, and in the course of the play we learn that Mom is expecting a baby girl (as is Lopez herself).

Lucy Marie Lopez, who is also the costume designer for the show, plays Mom in the world premiere of Mackenzie Raine Kirkman’s “push.” at LakehouseRanchDotPNG. (Photo courtesy of Juan Gamero)

When Mom rails at how little her husband does around the house, how the day-to-day responsibilities for their two boys are all hers, how Dad doesn’t even know where  various household items are kept, she seems thoroughly exhausted and overwhelmed.  (The household item mystery is a common one at my house and at the home of a friend, who asked his wife where the linen closet was.)

As Dad, Fernandez is all edgy irritation, at first bouncing one leg as he speaks, yelling instead of calmly speaking, violating the prohibition against vulgar language. Heavily tattooed, radiating a volatile strength, at times his Dad seems dangerous.  But as the actor sorts through more tender memories, Fernandez becomes the man who wishes the divorce weren’t happening.

LakehouseRanchDotPNG sticks with the simplest of design elements for “push.”  Indy Sulleiro’s set consists of a white-painted wall and a long table holding three bottles of water and that all-important button.  Urrutia’s lighting design and Kyran Wright’s sound enhance the conference-room feeling of the space.

Michael Fernandez as Dad shares a happier memory in the LakehouseRanchDotPNG world premiere of Mackenzie Raine Kirkman’s “push.” (Photo courtesy of Juan Gamero)

Though it follows a more familiar stylistic path than most LakehouseRanchDotPNG plays, “push.” showcases the company at its best.

Kirkman’s writing is insightful and, particularly for anyone who has endured the end of a marriage, quite accurate. (Parents take note: Due to some of the play’s language and subjects, “push.” is OK for teens but not younger kids.)

Under Urrutia’s direction, Urquia is exactly as officious as the Mediator should be, Fernandez both scary and vulnerable as Dad, Lopez the quintessence of a Mom ready to shed her biggest “kid.” Bravo.

WHAT: World premiere of “push” by Mackenzie Raine Kirkman

WHERE: LakehouseRanchDotPNG production at Artistic Vibes, 8846 SW 129th Terrace, Suite B (second floor), Miami

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Jan. 21

COST:  $20 (discounts for students and artists)

INFORMATION: 786-427-4721 or Lakehouseranch-png.webnode.page

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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