Icons & Outcasts

Written and directed by Suzanne Bachner
John Montgomery Theatre Co.
124 W. 26th St. 12th fl. (627-7076)
Equity showcase (closed; reopens June 10; closes June 28)
Review by John Chatterton

It is hard to describe the essence of the JMTC's latest production, since it doesn't easily fit any category. But it is tightly written and tautly performed, as well as entertaining and thought-provoking.

Its intermissionless 90 minutes comprised two dozen sketches with a total of two minutes devoted to scene changes, so one can only describe the result as lean. Eight characters come together in a variety of apparently random collisions, gradually building a loose network of relationships. There's the perhaps bulimic Jennifer Monroe (Elizabeth Anne Sullivan), in town for a funeral - any funeral; Clark Parker (Matthew Brady), paleontologist, with a strong leaning toward vampirism and lusty young lads like the disarming Arkansas Jack (John Houfe) and his twin brother, Bobby Ray (the star guest, by his own hand, at one of the funerals); Mute John (Alexander R. Warner), who doesn't say anything but can take care of himself; everyone's enigmatic Higher Power (Alysia Reiner); Candy Box (Laura Lee Ash), bimbo host of a local cable show, who loosely ties together all the relationships (if audience members look willing, she'll sit in their laps); Nova (Anthony Giangrande), the struggling actor auditioning for a part in the movie of Rent; and of course Balto, the faithful dog. (Not to mention a frenetic cast of supporting characters, played by the principals.)

There are no neat morals or tied-up loose ends, for this is the theatrical equivalent of bebop, with variations on themes suggested but never stated. There's plenty of eros, thanatos, dark ambition, and more than a little comedy in the mix (the Xerox-machine blowjob was hilarious), but the pieces flew by fast enough to resemble a hailstorm as seen from a plane's cockpit. This show took off and didn't touch down until its scheduled landing, and the flight was breezy, brazen, and breathtaking (and a masterpiece of stage management by Douglas Shearer).

The set, designed and lit by Charles Townsend Wittreich, Jr., featured numerous levels covered in vinyl tile and faced with Xeroxed portraits; it occupied half the tiny space and included a shower stall and sunken bathtub, for an unnerving suicide. Costumes, by Bachner, were sexy variations on red tee-shirts and black pants, with the exception of Candy Box's very pink outfit. Sound, by Patrick Hillan, helped fill those crucial 10 seconds between scenes with listenable acoustic mayhem.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 1998 John Chatterton