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'Where the Mountain Meets the Sea' review — heartfelt new play soars with magnetic performances

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Where the Mountain Meets the Sea, a heartfelt little show by Jeff Augustin, is a story that takes us from coast to coast, decade to decade. But for such an expansive story, a decidedly no-frills production. It doesn't need them. All it has, and needs, are a couple performers delivering a solid script, with music flowing throughout like waves.

The magnetic storytellers are Billy Eugene Jones and Chris Myers, perfectly cast. They respectively play Jean, a Haitian immigrant to America, and his son Jonah, who take parallel road trips years apart.

Going from Miami to California with his pregnant wife connects Jean more deeply with his new home as memories of his old one begin to fade. Going from California to Miami after Jean's death helps Jonah, a gay man who could never fully connect with his father, finally understand him. The folk music that underscores each of their drives through rural America acts like a string tying the men together.

Jeff Augustin conjures vivid landscapes with his poetic script: the blue Haitian ocean, the tourist-swamped Mount Rushmore, the bar in rural Tennessee that provides oasis to the characters. The actors only move a few square feet as they describe their cross-country journeys, but by the end of the show's brisk 80 minutes, we feel like we've truly traveled miles with them.

The show itself undulates, too, like hills and valleys, under Joshua Kahan Brody's direction. The folk songs are those valleys, often stalling the flow of the show as all onstage movement stops during them (though all are beautiful as written and performed by Shaun and Abigail Bengson). But to Jones's and Myers's credit, they draw us right back in each time as though there was no pause at all.

Their lived-in, effortless performances keep Where the Mountain Meets the Sea at a high otherwise — not only their speaking, but their movement, conceived by Steph Paul. Scenes in which each man is carefreely dancing — Jean with himself, and Jonah with another man, portrayed by Shaun Bengson — are the play's highlights.

You might walk out of Where the Mountain Meets the Sea wanting to take a road trip, or call your dad, or listen to more folk music. One guarantee is that you won't leave this show feeling nothing.

Photo credit: Shaun Bengson and Chris Myers in Where the Mountain Meets the Sea. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

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