Every year the Los Angeles County Arts Commission chooses three companies to present plays at Inside the Ford, a county-owned facility which was once the home of Taper Too. Among those presenting this year is Neo Ensemble Theatre, the third incarnation of a diverse company of actors that started in the 1990s as Theatre Neo. The Neo Ensemble Theatre likes to produce shows that “best display the human condition in all its raw hilarity.” Above all the plays they present look for the commonality of the human condition. Their current production is called Free by writer Barbara Lindsay and directed by Wendy Worthington, one of N.E.T.’s Artistic Directors and a founding member of Theatre Neo.
Marshal Free Gunther (Michael Earl Reid) has a problem and his best friend seems intent on ignoring his wishes. You see, Gunther “floats,” literally. and Stoney (Greg Albanese) wants to display Free’s “talent,” exploit it, make a ton of money, and get away from the hard times they both are experiencing. You might think of it as a variation on Of Mice and Men.
Free is a whimpering coward and wants to be left alone so he can just be “normal.” Stoney wants to become the next big entrepreneur and won’t take no for an answer. Free needs Stoney; in fact he is terrified Stoney will go away because Free can’t seem to do anything for himself.
When the maid at the hotel where the two men are staying comes by to change the beds, Free thinks he has found his true calling, making beds. After a stressful encounter with a needy fan who wants to learn to float and who insists that Free teach her, Free is persuaded by the maid’s confident manner to stand up for what he wants: to make beds and never float again. This leads to reprisals, tears, despair, anger, and abandonment. Stoney tries to leave but discovers he needs Free as much as Free needs him.