Life, death, and the whole damn thing


By Neena Beber
Directed by Maria Mileaf
New Georges
Soho Rep.
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

Tomorrowland tells of a young woman (Julie Dretzin) who gets work writing a TV series., Emily's Room, about a prepubescent girl (Alyson Leigh Kirk, mostly heard over the phone) who is rapidly growing out of the show's premise and into womanhood. Set in the middle of nowhere in Florida, the play details the tribulations of working in the closed world of a TV series, a world of monomaniacal producers (Anthony Lamont), directors (Anthony Lamont), continuity people (Penny Balfour), and fans (Taro Alexander, and Julia Mueller as his mother)

Much of the script is a monologue of free-association by the young writer, who is on the rebound from studying for a Ph.D. in literature and losing a lover to a car crash and talks accordingly. The digressions -- surely a disquisition on the use of parentheses in Middlemarch can only be called that -- are charming and intelligent and ultimately close on the airy thematic material of the nature of self and identity, life and death. A creative tack on a theatrically difficult subject.

While Alyson Kirk did what she could with the philosopher/sitcom writer, the task of enlivening the ``story'' falls to the other characters, each of whom brings an intense personal agenda to TV series. Producer Wyatt is intensely identified with the series and is the first to realize that Emily must go -- she's getting boobies. Black director Carl is equally career-driven. Perhaps production assistant Vicki's voice is most plaintive (next to fan Rodger, that is), as she is obsessed with details such as maintaining continuity from shot to shot between what cereals Emily is eating .

Set (Neil Patel) and lighting (Lenore Doxsee) were very effective, including lights that turned green to suggest that the scene had temporarily gone underwater.

Most endearing was fan Rodger, hopelessly in love with Emily, and his mother, Dell, a born cheerleader if ever there was one. Their personal lives are tied up with Emily, who, it turns out, suffers from a condition her producers had not thought to guard against: loneliness. Ultimately, Emily is glad to be rid of the show, so she can be with the likes of Rodger.

That the script might have been less than successful as a drama was less remarkable than that it kept all its spiderwebs in the air to the very end, where a lesser writer would have become hopelessly entangled in them.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1996 John Chatterton

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