With anthrax, mail bombs, and now the recent warnings of new terrorist threats in the news, Panichorea could not be more timely. Prophetic playwright Richard Hinojosa's "comedy of crisis" is a comical but somewhat unsettling look at a deadly disease that seems to be spreading like wildfire through tainted coffee and used stir sticks. Or at least that is what is being reported by the reckless newsreaders and reporters of CNNNN, who appear ready to say anything to capitalize on the story.
Playgoers who are prone to panic attacks may interpret this as an onstage version of Orson Welles's War of the Worlds. But, unlike that dramatized account of a Martian invasion, it is to be hoped that viewers will find the humor in the horror and not go jumping out of the second floor at Surf Reality. Characters with names such as Guy Symptom and Johnny Prevention will be a big clue that the "truth is not really out there."
With a quick-paced combination of digital video scenes and live-action interludes, Hinojosa shows a lot of gumption going after targets that could be considered sacred cows after 9/11. He satirically swipes at members of the media, military, government, and high finance with equal disregard. Not everything elicited a laugh, but a lot of the material was amusing. The direction was credited to the group presenting the show, The Kairos! Co., but a single director with a specific vision may have been able to add a uniform style to the wildly varied pieces (and also keep each segment reined in from going on too long).
The cast could not have been better. Clint McCown's creeping sideburns didn't get in the way of playing a range of offbeat victims and witnesses. Joseph Langham and Teresa Ryno displayed the right combination of steadfast seriousness and sadistic glee while spoofing people from all walks of life. Author Hinojosa completely embodied each of the comic personas he was assigned.
A television monitor pretty much comprised the set, keeping things simple in the small space. Kitschy costumes were contributed by Katherine Decker, who also handled lighting chores. Joseph Langham did a creditable job editing together the video segments.
Panichorea will spread the terror later this year when it will be performed as part of the New York International Fringe Fest. Catch it while you can.
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Copyright 2002 Elias Stimac