Smoldering slackers

Obsessively, Sam

Written and directed by Richard Hinojosa
The KAiROS! Co.
Under St. Marks
94 St. Marks Pl. (718/499-3203)
Non-union production (closes Mar. 21)
Review by Adam Cooper

Obsessively, Sam, written and directed by Richard Hinojosa, creates a world with a strikingly grim yet humorous ambiance. In it is a familiar landscape of desperate, directionless young people, living together and apart, in a microscopic and totally unkempt cellar of a dwelling. Their "home," a simple set with trash littered everywhere, the requisite dirty futon, and remote-controlled TV, transmits stagnation, desolation, and utter meaninglessness. The lives of the characters, revolving around trivialities and misplaced and unrealized desires, become the symbol of a generation of people stuck in purposelessness. Such is the milieu that inspires the spontaneous and outrageous murder at the play's heart.

Populating this tiny aberrant world where taboos are nonchalantly and routinely broken are six stunted slackers whose names are even underdeveloped. At the center of the entourage is Sam (Clint McCown), the primary tenant of an apartment, who, as the title suggests, is single-mindedly focused on commingling with his dithering and duplicitous sister, Ly (Teresa Ryno). A second couple, Ob (Russ Roten) and graduate student Sess (Stephanie Woodyard), are fellow occupants whose primary preoccupation is where best to station the futon. Rounding out this unholy trinity is couple #3, consisting of nearly inert and speechless Ive (David Hollander) and his wildly home-wrecking and nameless girlfriend (Christi Spain-Savage).

The facile, unifying thread that tenuously holds the fragmentary action together is the push-and-pull incestuous relationship of Sam and Ly. Playing coy flirty games with each other, their regressive, hideaway world comes to an end when Sam reveals his dreams and their fellow bunkmates' relationship implodes with murder. Although presented in a quirky and comical manner, the exploration of their dysfunctional relationship never moved beyond the presentational.

In spite of the production's amusingly eccentric moments between all the lovers, the script failed to move beyond just trappings of plot structure and character development. The story bookends of how and why the murder took place were engaging only to the point of their humorous qualities, while the romantic dilemmas of the couples did not move beyond the superficial. The actors did a reasonable job bringing to life the thinly drawn characters that populate Sam's filthy abode. However, not only did many of the characters lack strong motivations and raisons-d'etre, but they also seemed to exist to serve primarily as comic paraphernalia for the production. Meeting in two-scenes or congregating as a motley crew, the characters were barely aware of each other, and their conversations about sports, sex, and the influence of television were inane and not heightened.

Like the 1980s film Slacker, about lovable post-teen ne'er-do-wells, this production was at its strongest in presenting absurdist moments from the stultified lives of the characters. However, unlike the film, the production attempted to stretch out material that was mere sketchwork in the first place, offering the audience amusing bits of warped youthfulness but denying them the fullness of a play.

  Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2004 Adam Cooper