Cloning Around

Short plays by Walter Corwin
Theater for the New City
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

These sketches exhibit the strengths and drawbacks of playwrights new to the medium, which author Corwin apparently isn't. Long on concept and short on execution, they involve unique and fresh situations either not fully developed or developed with a lack of finesse.

That they were performed in TNC's basement theatre, whose acoustics would make King Tut's tomb sound good, didn't help, since much of the dialogue was drowned in its own echoes. The actors, while also fresh and willing, generally didn't rise above the din bouncing off the walls. This is a case for some severe acoustic re-engineering (or drapes).

Jack Tynan, Frank Marzullo, and Paige Jennifer Barr played three characters in Go Eastward, Young Sponge: the first two as sponges (dressed in tee shirts with little sponges glued to the fronts) getting irritable in a drought, the latter as Golden Rain, a weather goddess who brings their skirmishing to an end. Director Jason LaRosa choreographed the sponges' squabble in strange, robotlike movements. The goddess, between attempts to create thunder, lightning, and rain, uttered opaque poetry. ("Forsynthia [sic] between their toes"?)

The more fleshed-out Cloning Around portrays a future - announced by a Chorus at the beginning and end - in which all women have children on Cloning Day, when they are implanted with ova that will look like a standard man or a standard woman, both of whom look like they should have stayed at the high-school prom. Any suggestion of sex, even handholding, is frowned upon. In the confusion of scenes, three couples (all cutely played by Gianni Baratta and Barr, as, ah, clones) raced in and out, changed costumes, and switched in a manner worthy of The Mystery Of Irma Vep. Strange sounds, reminiscent of jets landing, separated scenes. What the clones were fighting over was as unclear as the motives of the sponges, except that it all ended happily with the reintroduction of (offstage) sex. (Director, Yuji Tekematsu; amusing costumes, Aixa Kendrick.)

Close To the Maddening Crowd shows a woman and a man (Barr and Tynan) reacting to the noise of their urban environment; she passively, he by cursing and throwing eggs. In his pantomime he sometimes said that he had only six eggs, even though he had thrown as many and so should have had none, then stood on the chair on which he had put the remaining eggs. (Directed by LaRosa.)

In Fly Your Flag, Jerry Jaffe portrayed a retired man who entertains his daughter (JB Riemer) and a neighbor (Marion Sarach), who is running away from her spouse and at the same time staying in out of an impending hurricane of Skin Of Our Teeth proportions. There is only one spare bed, so the two women share it while Sam (who gets drunk and tries to climb in with the two women) fights off an intruder, who is surprisingly done in by the flapping of Sam's flag. Jaffe's drunk scene was as unmotivated as much of the dialog and situations. (Directed by Takematsu.)

Frank Marzullo offered a touching portrayal of a teacher with seemingly a dozen part-time jobs, from Jersey City to Brooklyn, all teaching basic English to people who can't or won't learn. He is beaten down by degrees - including getting "downsized" at one job, for being blunt with a student - until he finally can relate to a street beggar.

This is a story that cries out for rewriting as a radio play, so that the actor wouldn't have to repeat everyone else's dialog as well as his own words, both spoken and unspoken. (Directed by LaRosa.)

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 1998 John Chatterton