Some people might remember Micronesia from high-school geography class, and Kron Vollmer, the writer/star of Telethon, certainly seems to be among them. Kron has declared herself an independent nation -- Mykronesia -- and Telethon is the second play about her adventures as a nation with a population of one.
The concept is quite clever and offers the opportunity for much political satire. Mykronesia has her own UN peacekeepers in the form of two gay soldiers who hang around her house. She's also desperately trying to get into the European Union and is indebted to the International Monetary Fund (paying off these IMF loans is the reason for the titular telethon). There's some global economics humor as well in the form of a large pie chart on the back wall of the stage that shows the GNP of Mykronesia (mostly coming from temp work) and how those resources are allocated (78 percent on rent for her Manhattan apartment). We learn that Kron's self-printed currency (the kronicle) has an exchange rate of 32,000 kronicles to one U.S. dollar, and one funny scene involved paying several million kronicles for a trip to Burger King.
Despite this very clever concept and much opportunity for fun, the play doesn't quite live up to its potential. Characters appear with little warning, do a segment on the telethon, then disappear, never to be mentioned again. There is little of an overall plot, and Kron has only the loose goal of joining the European Union to drive her on. There is no explanation for why Kron has seceded from the USA (or how). Worst of all, an improbable, contrived plot device brings about a happy ending. Liza Minelli shows up at the last minute to do a spot on the telethon. The deus ex Minelli continues when Liza receives a cell-phone call from the European Union that provides a happy ending for everyone.
Much ado is made of Mykronesia's "native folk dances," which were liberally performed during the show. The dances are described as "narrative and gestural," coming across as an urban hula. At one point one character says, "There's no such thing as too much folk dancing." Even though the dances had a certain charm, they were used far too often. The show opened and closed with dance numbers, Kron danced during transitions between scenes, and she did dances to cover air time on her telethon when celebrity guests don't show up (everyone but Liza backs out of the telethon).
The cast mostly offered caricature performances: the Gay Guy, the Valley Girl, the Minelli etc. This was partially the fault of director Russell Kaplan, and of the fact that Vollmer's script keeps the focus on her own character.
On the bright note, the costumes were quite good, particularly the Peacekeeper uniforms and the Liza outfit. The Mykronesian folk costume was also an eye-catching sequined ensemble with a fabulous headdress.
As stated earlier, this is the second play about Mykronesia, and it is to be hoped a third installment will allow the idea to blossom to its full potential.
(Also featuring John Paul Skocik, Ludovic Moulin, Chris Peterson, Bobbi Leann Williams, Akiva Saltzman, and Jeff Scott.)
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Copyright 2004 Charles Battersby