Missing Angel Juan
at the Firehouse
by Justin Hayford
Designer Stephanie Nelson pulls off a minor miracle for Powertap's adaptation of Francesca Lia Blocks' Missing Angel Juan, transforming the Firehouses's cramped, workmanlike stage into a magical operatic playground. By severely forcing perspective and carving up the stage into myriad boxes stacked top-to-bottom and back-to-front, Nelson evokes New York City's cluttered claustrophobia. But she's rigged her set with secret entrances and transformative set pieces; the black-top highway running smack through the middle of her stage, for example, lifts up to create a subway interior. As a result, the actors can flit from Greenwich Village to Harlem, from the Central
Park tree tops to the top of the Coney Island ferris wheel in the blink of an eye.
Directors Ann Boyd and Scott Cummins match Nelson's ingenuity in their sprightly staging; this team is bursting with ideas. Now if only author Block could come up with one. In Missing Angel Juan, the fourth in her wildly popular Weetzie Bat teen-novel series, Block sets up a workably dramatic premise; California new-wave poster child Witch Baby heads off to New York to find her errant lover Angel Juan. But rather than write the story she promises, she strings together a series of pointless, cloyingly kooky encounters, never missing the chance to make up cute names for things. Block takes us to the lair of the Tree Spirits, for example, not to complicate the plot but to give Witch Baby the opportunity to call one "a dark sleekster guy" with "bare chunkster shoulders." Hearing Block's words for two hours, even from this able cast, is like eating a Twinkie for dinner; it doesn't satisfy and it leaves the teeth aching.