When they're handing out free glasses of wine with the program, be sure to expect an atypical evening in the theatre. Delightful chaos reigned over this lightning-paced production of nine one-act plays by Richard Lay, and within fifty minutes, so many themes, images, terms, and characters had flown by that even those who chose to abstain from the vino must have felt a bit intoxicated.
This production was boldly avant-garde in nature: the presentation readily rejected all theatrical pretension, lumping its prepared texts into a form that ridiculed and simplified such psychological concepts as "existentialism." Guided by a somewhat-scripted interactive narrator played by Frank Calo, the audience was invited to view scenes of everyday life while simultaneously enduring alienating remarks like, "We're all going to clap now, before the next scene. You're all just props anyway!" and "Does anyone here understand a single word I've said this evening? That's existentialism!" Such Brechtian statements reminded the audience of the fictitious nature of all action on stage, and this up-front acknowledgment of theatricality allowed these scenes to employ a greater repertoire of dramatic devices and unlikely conceits.
Various interjections - a comment from the narrator, a question to the audience, a poem by Dorothy Parker read out loud by the reincarnation of Albert Camus (coincidentally sitting in the first row) - served as checkpoints to remind the audience of this ever-present theatricality.
Each of the mini-plays presented a portrait of a different facet of human relationships: lovers, family members, theatre professionals, even homeless bums. The writing was paired down in language, and each scene was typically no more than a few minutes long. Some of the production's more memorable performances included Eric R. Moreland's one-man portrayal of a "waiter" (in both the culinary and existential senses), a pair of disconnected sisters played by Teresa Fischer and Risa Glenn, and a trio of derelicts with a pipe dream to move Brooklyn across the East River, played by Christi Spain, David Van Pelt, and Vincent Mancini. The funniest gag went to Mike Nicol, who played furniture designer Jay, in fact Jesus come again in glory, complete with his standard "water-to-wine" trick.
The production proved somewhat disappointing due to a choppy presentation and the fact that no scene seemed more significant than the others. The conglomeration lacked a climax and there was little movement among scenes - indeed, there was no ultimate point or purpose, a problem magnified by the fact that four directors worked on the project and there was no consistent set. While consistently enjoyable, there was nothing about this collage of people and situations that was particularly stellar or meaningful. The evening would have proven more effective if the Sage Theatre Company had chosen works that dealt closely with various perspectives on a more limited slice of the human condition along with a clear agenda or interpretation about life.
Also featuring Dave Albin, Alexander Kottchak, Cyndi Lynch, and Tedd Merritt.
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Copyright 1998 Andrew Eggert