A VIRTUOSO PIECE! The vast majority of one-man shows involve the performer talking to the audience in his/her own or an assumed persona, possibly briefly taking on other characters as they make a more or less brief appearance. Mark Soper eschews this "easy" option: he plays no less than ten different characters, ranging from a little girl to an elementary school "dweeb nerd" with weak bowels to a Los Angeles policeman. They all tell the same story of the incidents that lead up to mass murder, each detailing their own inadvertent part in the building tragedy, and all with nothing more than a simple change of costume and his own versatility as an actor to help him.
For most of the time we simply don't see where all this is going. In fact, it is very hard to see - at least in the first quarter of an hour or so - just what connection these individuals and their stories have with each other, let alone understand what they are leading to. But gradually the connections emerge and the story unfolds with almost tragic inevitability.
It's a virtuoso piece, running for an hour and twenty minutes, and requires very careful attention to pacing and this is where, for me, An Age of Angels doesn't quite come off, which is why it misses the five star accolade: although the characterisation is excellent and the story unfolds in a fascinatingly subtle way, the dynamics of the performance (essentially the pace and vocal range) are a little too restricted. But it's still a show well worth seeing and a piece of writing to admire. Peter Lathan (British Theatre Guide 15/08/07)
"One day, in Los Angeles, a schoolboy kicks a ball over a chain-link fence on to a highway, and a series of mundane events cascade into a tragedy. In this extraordinary one-man show, written and performed by American actor Mark Soper, the story unfolds through the eyes of ten different people.
The opening monologue takes the voice of a paedophile who hangs around playgrounds, a complex, fragmented, even poetic voice which evokes an inner turmoil of shame and longing. It sets the tone for a challenging multi-character show which refuses to bow to audience expectations or sensibilities.
Many of Soper's characters are hard to like: the control-freak executive traumatised by a bead of sweat; the school bully who shrugs off any responsibility for those who copy him; the redneck in the unlicensed truck who blames his problems on the immigrants; the geek with the high IQ and flatulence problem.
But Soper's versatile acting, clever, often funny, writing, and the direction of Ines Wurth - whose own solo show, I Miss Communism, was a hit on the Fringe two years ago - means that we not only begin to find these characters palatable, we actually start seeing through their eyes.
Soper shifts between characters with little more than minor costume changes, weaving each unique voice into a picture of a complete person.
In the background he sketches out a society in crisis: disenfranchised youth, Iraq vets who can't readjust, politicians who are too worried about the next photo opportunity to care. The black motorcyle cop serves the state but knows his son will not. The politician's flunky begins to wonder how much of the "message" is lost in endless ribbon-cutting. The truck driver believes in "red, white and blue and God", but finds his country has little belief in him.
Within the tight structure of a gradually unfolding plot, Soper brings us a gallery of tortured souls, and the mundane world they inhabit becomes darkly illuminated. Susan Mansfield (The Scotsman 10/08/07)
The play looks at an incident in Los Angeles, starting from a minor accident with a football and ending in mass murder. It does this by telling the story of ten individuals involved, one at a time - a sex offender, girl, studio executive, handicapped boy, trucker, mentally ill man, candidate's worker, young bully, motorcycle policeman and finally an angel. Each character is beautifully played by Mark Soper, with a rapid change of clothes on stage for each character. At first the stories are not obviously related but it gradually becomes clear that they are all really parts of a single story and that small events can have major consequences. (Broadwaybaby.com 07/08/07)
Mark Soper's solo play imagines the events leading to a mass killing on the Los Angeles streets, with Soper playing ten characters who unknowingly play a part in the process leading to the tragedy. A paedophile hangs around a schoolyard watching one girl, who notices him but is more interested in the boys playing ball. A nerdy kid tries to impress her by kicking the football and somehow sends it over the fence into the street. A motorist annoyed by the traffic jam this produces tries to speed away and draws the attention of a cop, but another driver stops to get the ball, which a street crazy imagines to be a space alien come to take him to his home planet, and so on. Each step is essentially innocent, each character makes sense, but somehow they lead inevitably to someone pulling a gun and firing wildly.
Actually, a couple of characters in the chain don't really seem necessary to the story, and only a few, notably the helpful driver and the cop, are developed or presented fully enough to really come alive. So one senses more authorial manipulation and less natural inevitability than Soper the playwright might wish, especially since Soper the actor does not quite get inside some of the secondary figures. (The Stage 15/08/07)