Stuck Elevator, the new-in-many-directions musical theater piece by Aaron Jafferis and Byron Au Yong, does not ascend in a linear manner. Its hapless protagonist is trapped between floors while delivering Chinese take-out food in a New York City apartment building. He is not freed for 81 hours. The show, which lasts 81 minutes, stops and roams in a way which its hero can not. It shows him scared, worried, hallucinating, reminiscing about the relatives he’s left behind in China, ruminating about the friends and false friends and workmates he exists with now, and generally doing what one does when one has an awful lot of time on one’s hands with no idea when things will change.
Librettist Aaron Jafferis (a New Haven native who’s turned his hip-hop poetry prowess into several successful longform dramas before this) and composer Byron Au Yong (who leads the four-piece band through a multi-styled yet explicitly modern sound experience) work hard to make sure that Stuck Elevator is consistently surprising and entertaining, but also has a heart, a soul and an important sociopolitical message to convey about the immigrant experience in America. The guy stuck in this elevator is already stuck, see. He can conjure up mental images of international wrestling matches and warm family moments and American dreams, but his situation gets more dire the more he reflects on it. Stuck Elevator’s non-linear format makes it challenging for both performers and audiences, but the decision for the show to not have a conventional storyline, and especially not to have a clean-cut ending, is Stuck Elevator’s ultimate saving grace. This is a piece that feels real and immediate, and exists in a frightening present tense.
Stuck Elevator continues performances through June 29 at Long Wharf Theater Stage II. www.artidea.org