What a strange work is Harry Consumed. Warren Green's play, part absurdist comedy, part relationship drama, all Pinter wannabe and slightly Albeeësque, it never quite settles into one idea long enough to be an effective piece of dramaturgy.
Ostensibly it is about Harry's and Laura's - a (possibly) infertile couple - quest to have a child with surrogate parents. The entire action takes place in an Italian restaurant where they are to meet with their surrogates, Harry's best friend and Laura's sister, who never do show up. (Which may be just as well, because Harry and Laura are such a miserably dysfunctional couple that any child they were given to raise would be doomed.) In one long act, Harry and Laura bicker with each other (and their waiter) over issues both large and petty, and it is a problem of the script that there is very little delineation as to which issues are minor or major. In fact, so much time is spent arguing over what they are going to eat and how the food is going to be prepared that the audience was left starved for anything solid to sink its teeth into, theatrical or otherwise. (This became especially frustrating after the food was delivered to the table: Karen Asconi's food preparation was astounding in its scrumptious-looking detail.)
Steve Hess directed with a heavy hand, and the action seemed to stand still for long stretches at a time. He also seemed hesitant to give the work a decisive tone: is the script a dramatic tour de force, is it a wildly absurdist comedy, or is it a mixture of both? Unfortunately, Hess didn't answer any of these questions, and the resulting production had very little personal flavor. But he did manage to draw good performances from Doug E. Wynn and Elizabeth Heiner as Harry and Laura, the couple from hell. Wynn made Harry's control-freak tendencies very clear, while Heiner was not afraid to make Laura a consummate bitch. Enrico Ciotti, as a real waiter can sometimes be, was an annoying presence. And Hess's attention to detail in the physical production (as in the aforementioned food) gained some of the ground lost in the static presentation.
Frank Avellino's restaurant setting was lovely to behold, with remarkably complete pink-and-black table settings and luxuriant white scrim wall hangings; Peter Colleto's amber and white tinged lighting added warmth but had a strange habit of fading in and out to a blue shadow at odd intervals. The uncredited costumes, most likely pulled from personal wardrobes, were appropriately attractive but no more.
Possibly the one thing that could characterize the major problem with the production can be summed up with one minor production detail: the pre-show music. Since the setting is an Italian restaurant, clichéd Italian opera arias (particularly Puccini) were played ad nauseam. Had everyone gone just a little bit farther than the obvious, perhaps Harry Consumed might have been a bit more of a match for its adventurous, but unrealized, concept.
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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita