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Pluto – An Atlanta Theater Fans Review

 Kathleen Wattis (Elizabeth), Wyatt Fenner (Bailey), and Joe Sykes (Radio Voice/Death) in Pluto. Photo by BreeAnne Clowdus

Kathleen Wattis (Elizabeth), Wyatt Fenner (Bailey), and Joe Sykes (Radio Voice/Death) in Pluto. Photo by BreeAnne Clowdus

Supernatural elements find a comfortable home in Steve Yockey’s works. With Pluto currently onstage at Actor’s Express, he weaves in mythology, a ghost story and a haunting tale of a mother’s love into this 80-minute drama that never loses its quick-pace and high intensity. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, this powerful world premiere production of will not leave anyone untouched.

At its heart the play is a story about a mother (Kathleen Wattis) who longs to rescue and reignite her relationship with her son, Bailey (Wyatt Fenner). Without giving too much of the story away, there is a tragedy that has enveloped the town and Bailey is involved. As much as she doesn’t want to acknowledge how withdrawn he has become, she doesn’t want to see the outcome of this event and tries to make it just another ordinary day.

The two sit at the breakfast table trying to have a conversation and talk about various issues from school to the boy’s father. As the time seems to pass, the topics get more personal and deeper, highlighting issues that may have been a wall between them. If it weren’t for the new family dog, this show might seem like the typical family drama, but it isn’t.

Whether it is the supernatural elements, the quick pace of the action or the emotionally captivating performance of Wattis, no one has time to contemplate the actions of Bailey. Instead, the audience focuses on Elizabeth and her plight. As the tragic situation unfolds for her, so it does for the audience, creating a powerful climax for the play. There isn’t time to judge him, only feel sorry for her. It would be easy to focus on the son, but Yockey’s approach allows us to view the situation from a side that is seldom seen, and that aspect makes this play captivating.

But don’t expect the production to be too heavy. There’s lots of humor that breaks the tension. Joe Sykes gives a memorable performance as Radio Voice/Death. He has a few witty lines that are delivered sharply. The family dog, Cerberus (Alison Hastings), also has a few quips that draw laughter from the crowd. But, it is the subtle one-liners that Wattis and Fenner throw back and forth, especially an exchange about Pop Tarts that threads itself through the show, that provide much of the comic relief.

A remarkable show, Pluto plays at Actor’s Express through November 24, 2013. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website or our Now Onstage listing. The show’s runtime is 80 minutes with no intermission.

- Kenny Norton