Urban warpfare

Where Everything Is Everything

Written and Directed by Stephen Spoonamore
The Pelican Studio Theatre
750 Eighth Ave. (539-8892)
Non-union production (closes Jan. 31)
Review by David Mackler

Can two stunningly unsuited people make beautiful music together in the big-city jungle? Stephen Spoonamore has set his dance of the sexes in Manhattan, where, well, "Where Everything is Everything," but no definitive answers are forthcoming.

Dan (Paul Sparks) is a financial investment counselor, and Tracy (Kathy Fabian) is the graphic artist he hires to design a new corporate logo. They operate in different solar systems: Dan is a cool customer who revels in the power of his job ("I feel like God -- I am God"), while Tracy considers herself a superior person, yet a "social leper" who has better rapport with tea than men. While they don't exactly "meet cute," their first encounter results in Dan's asking Tracy to dinner.

The scenes of their courtship are interrupted by monologue "interludes," some starring Main Man Dan, the amusement-park-guide-book-Manhattan-man (Sparks) and some featuring "Travellor" Tracy (Fabian), who hold forth on various aspects of life in the city.

The misadventures of Dan and Tracy are often quite funny -- the disastrous trip to a family wedding in Rhode Island that results in the mistaken impression of their engagement; how seriously Dan takes himself ("I'd rather be wrong than be in therapy"); offering someone a drawer in your apartment as a level of commitment. Much of this humor was attributable to the terrific performances of Sparks and Fabian, who managed to be funny far above their dialogue, often simply by reacting with an unexpected look. When the play itself rose to the level of their playing it was quite good (the post-Rhode Island wedding plane ride was a high point, as was "Travellor" Tracy's discourse on possible pregnancy), but as the play went on, interest was centered on what the performers would do next. Sparks and Fabian played two other characters as well, and their appearances were also highlights. As Renee, Tracy's gay friend, Sparks was funny, ludicrous, and touching; as Carla, Dan's co-worker, Fabian was haughty and human as she had fun at Dan's expense ("We all like you better when you're getting laid"). The lines are good, the delivery was great.

And the play was extremely well-presented. The color palette of the theater, the sets, and the costumes for Dan and Tracy was limited to black and white, giving the actors the opportunity to shine. Main Man Dan and "Travellor" Tracy were allowed their splashes of color (they probably demanded them), but through most of the play Dan was lit from underneath, by light reflecting off the central stage area. (Robert Williams did the lighting design). The effectiveness of this wore off after a while, but it gave him an eerie look, which worked well with Sparks' droll, mostly deadpan delivery.

Which means that Spoonamore the director did far better by his actors than he does by his play. The play tended to drag in the second act, and became more repetitious than inventive. In addition, the program advises that there are two different endings to the play, one comic and one tragic, and which will be performed is determined by a coin toss after the first act. While this engendered some tension in the audience (who weren't informed of the result of the toss), it wasn't quite enough to sustain interest.

Spoonamore might better have taken his cue from The French Lieutenant's Woman and presented both -- leaving it to the audience to work out the mixture of the comic and the tragic. And better yet, it would have given these good actors further chance to strut their stuff.

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

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Copyright 1998 David Mackler