Who ARE the people in your neighborhood? Does anyone in Manhattan really know the people who populate their immediate environs? Oh yeah, there is that homeless guy who haunts the entrance to the subway station, and there is that little old lady who sits on the same bench day after day, talking to anyone who will listen, including herself. And of course there are the school kids selling candy for worthy causes, postal workers, building superintendents, the endless mix of the well-heeled and the shoeless who provide the more than eight million stories that make up this city. But does anyone really pay more than a glancing attention to the people who cross our paths on a daily basis? What are their stories? What are their names? What do they think? Who are they, really? Does anyone really care?
In Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?, John Tedeschi the writer has fashioned a showcase for John Tedeschi the actor that tries earnestly to answer the above questions with varying degrees of success. Focusing on the neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen, Tedeschi displayed chameleon-like ability with his various characterizations, and his performance of a homeless schizophrenic was downright chilling. Yet the issues raised and the questions asked did not seem to be fully explored, each succeeding vignette felt unconnected to the preceding one, and the ultimate scene that was meant to tie everything together (Tedeschi playing himself as a success coming back to the old neighborhood) instead seemed patently false and patronizing. The motives or the intent are unquestionable, but a more trenchant point of view allied to a more unified structure would have gone a long way to exploiting the considerable talent at hand.
Julie Troost made a smart directorial debut; if she didn't quite push the material or the performer far enough, she did provide a colorfully spare evening that showcased the work on display without calling undue attention to herself or her nascent but promising skills. Tedeschi, wearing an all-purpose black outfit, performed within graphically demarcated areas and underneath hanging props that delineated the personality of each character being portrayed. (Set and costume uncredited; unremarkable lighting by Lucas Rockwood.) While this approach did help to clarify things that may not have been immediately apparent from the writing or performance, it also helped to expose the fragmentary weaknesses of the script. Yes, most people do live their lives within their own safely defined territories, especially in a city where personal space is a luxury that is prized and ferociously guarded. But in a theatrical context this kind of isolation, both in the textual and the visual, kept the evening from coalescing into one visceral whole: the loneliness of the characters and their isolation from each other was readily apparent - what was missing was the sense of the chaotic, jumbled, angst-ridden, in-your-face, perhaps even joyous energy that permeates New York and its eight million ever-changing, never-ending stories.
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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita