Written by James Comtois
Directed by Pete Boisvert
Trailers Written by
Directed by Patrick Shearer
Nosedive Productions (http://www.nosediveproductions.com)
The Red Room
85 East 4th Street
Equity Showcase (Thurs. and Sat. 8 pm, through April 28)
Review by Byrne Harrison
How to describe Suburban Peepshow, the latest play from Nosedive Productions? Theatrical is the word that instantly springs to mind. No fourth wall or naturalism from these actors, the audience is very much a part of the show, and they acknowledge that everything is an illusion. Outrageous is another good word. Playwright James Comtois easily imagines a world where a button-down, middle-class family would enjoy dinner one moment and methodically chop up a carnie barker in the next. Ridiculous fits, as well. Many characters are known, not by name, but by description (New Girl, Office Guy #1, Pool Guy), and a half-naked Chubby Guy is used to cover a scene change or two.
Then there’s the transvestite ninja.
Like the early absurdist drama to which it pays homage, Suburban Peepshow is a play about people who are out of sync with their world. In a nod to modern culture, that world is based on the television and movies that have defined normalcy for the last fifty years or so. Mother (Leslie E. Hughes) wears a nice dress and pearls and wants nothing more than a new set of dish towels. Bill (Zack Calhoon), the father, is working on getting that promotion at work; a job he likens to the movie Office Space. Their son, Jeremy (Marc Landers), is uncommunicative, but generally okay.
What makes these characters feel out of sync is the usual stuff that real families face. A father facing middle-age and wanting something more from life, be it a better job, or a mistress that makes him feel young. A mother who feels abandoned and dreams of an exotic lover to spice up her life. A teenager, not a boy, yet not a man, who bristles at his parents’ attention and wants an identity of his own. Common problems, common desires. A little bit of suburbia.
But in and of themselves, these are not particularly interesting, and as the Director, played by Patrick Shearer, attests when he stops the play to interact with Bill, no one really wants to hear about it. To make up for the banality of the family’s everyday life and problems, Comtois peppers the play with absurd situations – Bill is forced to wear a gladiator’s costume; his love interest, New Girl (Anna Kull) dresses in a Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform, both for Bill’s entertainment and that of the randy Playwright (Anthony Bertram); the show is a play within a play within a play, with no indication which level is ‘real;’ and again, there’s that transvestite ninja (Christopher Yustin).
The play is not without its faults. There are several scenes, most notably those featuring the Playwright, that drag. A number of these slow-moving scenes cover set changes. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they feel like. Director Pete Boisvert does a remarkable job with the rest of the scenes, knowing when to highlight the absurdity and when to focus on the realistic aspects of the play.
The design elements for the show reinforce the theatricality of the production. Footlights, rarely used in modern theatre, give everything a slightly unreal look, especially in the small space of the Red Room theatre. In addition to Gabe Evansohn’s lighting, set designer Lauren DiGiulio uses a proscenium stage with a bright red curtain to frame the fairly realistic sets, once again subtly reinforcing the dichotomy between the real and the theatrical in the play. Makeup (Catherine Culbertson) and costumes (Hollie Nadel) complete the effect.
Those people who prefer their plays realistic and their plots comfortably traveling from Point A to Point B may not appreciate the shear gleeful absurdity of Suburban Peepshow. However, if you like your theatre with an edge, this is a good show to experience.
The evening begins with Mac Rogers’ Trailers as a curtain-raiser. The play, featuring Bertram and a group of Nosedive regulars, is a send up of popular culture, in the form of movie trailers, that indicts the movie companies for recycling the same stories and playing to society’s lowest common denominator, and the audience for calmly lapping it up. It is a clever and thought-provoking piece, ably directed by Patrick Shearer.
(Suburban Peepshow also features James Comtois and Ben VandenBoom. Trailers also features Pete Boisvert, Rebecca Comtois, Mick Hilgers, Cat* Johnson, Marc Landers, and Stephanie Williams)
Copyright 2007 Byrne Harrison
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