Bad dreams

The Green Dragon: A Modern Myth

Written and directed by Jonathan Calindas
Spotlight On Productions Winter Theatre Festival 2002
Raw Space Theatre A
529 W 42nd Street (279-4200)
Non-union production (closes Mar. 17)
Review by Frank Episale

Jonathan Calindas’s The Green Dragon is made up of eight monologues and a brief two-person scene. Each monologue is a response to a thinly veiled metaphor for the attacks of September 11. This dragon swooped down unexpectedly from the mountains and launched a devastating assault on the castle. Despite the fantastical imagery, the setting is contemporary, some of the stories of the characters seemingly lifted directly from newspaper accounts about the World Trade Center. The gray dust, the firemen, the missing persons, concerns about air quality, the impact on business: it’s all achingly familiar, and at first it was difficult to understand why the playwright had chosen this metaphor at all. If the monologues are reenactments of reactions to actual events, why change the airplanes to a dragon and the towers to a castle?

Before long, though, it becomes clear that there is another narrative at play here, one less closely tied to the actual events of recent months. As the narrative progresses, the story of a mysterious traveler emerges and the individual monologues benefit from this new focus. Rebecca Jansson’s Reporter, for example, asks an assembled audience for funding to continue her investigation of the man. This specificity is welcome after the interminable ramblings of a Truck Driver (Eric R. Velarde) who picks up a hitchhiker to keep from falling asleep on the road or the shrill but strangely disconnected conversations of the Girlfriend (Schoen Smith) out looking for her missing beloved.

Apparently, this enigmatic man lost his family in the attack on the castle and set off on a quest to destroy the dragon. To this end, he somehow acquires a huge set of wings and has explosives planted inside his body. On his way to vanquish the dragon, though, he keeps getting distracted by opportunities to do good. He rescues a crashing airplane, convinces a woman not to commit suicide, etc. In a final act of martyrdom, he flies into a troublesome cloud that hangs above the city and detonates himself, ridding the citizens below of a spreading disease.

All of this is meant to represent hope rising from the dark impulse of revenge but, by the time it was clear what was going on, it had long since become tedious. Most of the actors were burdened with structureless, "conversational" speeches that made it difficult for them to bite into any kind of emotional journey. The uncredited lighting was harsh and the use of sound inconsistent. The bare-bones set consisted of chairs moved around in seemingly random patterns between scenes and a long piece of fabric crumpled in various formations to represent the winged man. The characters themselves, intended to be radically different, all share strangely similar slang and speech patterns.

In subtitling The Green Dragon "a modern myth," Jonathan Calindas is not just referring to his use of established mythical imagery, nor to the structure of related monologues meant to suggest the tradition of oral storytelling. He is also attempting to imbue his new play with the cultural importance of myth, the healing potential of the collective unconscious. It’s tempting to be overly forgiving of the play’s many flaws given the good intentions of the playwright, but there was no escaping the feeling that this was more a classroom exercise than a finished piece of theater.

Also featured were: Mario Corrales, Rodney E. Reyes, Patrick Annelli, and Mimi Jefferson.

Box Score:

Writing: 0
Directing: 0
Acting: 1
Set: 0
Costumes: 1
Lighting: 0/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 Frank Episale