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Navigator in Love

The Georgian-American Theatrical Feast presents a fascinating tale of a man who finds solace in a machine.

Masha Dakic and Michael Propster in a scene from “Navigator in Love” (Photo credit: Isaiah Tanenbaum)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin

Navigator in Love by Lasha Bugadze is part of The Georgian-American Theatrical Feast, a festival of new works from the Republic of Georgia. It is a bit old-fashioned and more than a little bizarre, reminiscent of several Twilight Zone episodes with its man-against-machine theme, but cannily written.

Hapless Rostom (a perfectly cast Michael Propster who wears his emotions close to the surface) is low man on the totem pole in a nameless construction company and is removed from his comfortable office job to a position that forces him to travel about the country in a company car. He has the distasteful job of investigating corruption in the company’s many construction sites. He is aided in his travels by the Navigator (the voice of his GPS, Lauren Riddle who somehow finds a way to express emotions in her monotone voice).

Back at the office, Rostom’s object of affection, Clara (Masha Dakic, regally cool and beautiful) keeps rebuffing his ardent advances, to the point of actually asking him not to come to her office, an amorous defeat that begins Rostom journey to his dark fate.

Even at home, Rostom’s mean-spirited Father (Alan Altschuler, who also skillfully plays one of Rostom’s rude bosses, Akba), belittles him, despite the son’s generous caretaking.

As Rostom spends more time in the car, the Navigator begins making personal comments, advising Rostom what to wear and on his looks. Soon the Navigator is relaying office gossip and even actual conversations concerning Clara that depress Rostom who spirals first into anti-social then self-destructive behavior which includes fantasies of a relationship with Clara. Rostom fails to fulfill his duties, becoming a liability to the company. He turns more and more to the Navigator for comfort.

Rostom has one sort of friend, a young co-worker, Jakeli (Brett Epstein, who does anxiety with panache) who actually winds up stabbing him in the back, emotionally.

Michael Propster, Ross De Graw and Owen Scott in a scene from “Navigator in Love” (Photo credit: Isaiah Tanenbaum)

His bosses include Otar and Emzar played with cool heartlessness by Ross DeGraw and Owen Scott.

Maya Kiasashvili’s translation is smooth, capturing both the Kafka-esque bureaucracy and the wit of the dialogue.

Adam Knight not only directed with a light touch, but designed the minimal set pieces which include little more than desks and office chairs.

Lauren Duffie’s lighting is a major part of the story telling, turning the office into the automobile in a split second. Irina Gachechiladze’s costumes clearly hinted at the many levels of power in the office, from Rostom’s wrinkled look to the sleek business suits of Clara and the bosses.

It is always good to sample theater from other cultures, even those slightly behind the curve. The Georgian-American Theatrical Feast is presenting another fully staged play and a number of free readings.

Navigator in Love (through August 6, 2017)
Red Lab Productions
The Georgian American Theatrical Feast
A Festival of New Works from The Republic of Georgia
Teatro Circulo, 64 East 4th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.redlabproductions.org
Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (219 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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