(Part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival)
Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
Joe Hutcheson's multimedia, solo performance The Purpose of Matter in the Universe is a wonderful whirlwind of exciting characters, emotions and sticky situations. In this 75 minute show, he chronicles his journey from California to Florida by car, but by his own admission in the press materials, may or may not be fudging the truth.
An enthusiastic and jubilant performer, Hutcheson's material focuses on the spiritual, with and without religious connotations. From his fascination with ladybugs to his meditation on death, he indulges in his inner child as well as his external aging with passion. He takes us on a roller coaster ride that may jostle our brains and our necks, but it is a thrilling ride all the same.
But for a stool and a flirty, pink shirt, the show lacks props and a set. However, those things would have impeded Hutcheson's freedom to dart to and fro, and would have quieted his play's whimsy.
On his road trip, he encounters family and friends, and a few attractive strangers in between. There is a healthy mixture of lighthearted and somber anecdotes, and some that don't qualify as either. There are even snippets of history such as the emergence of the West Nile Virus. He explores drug use, his mortality, his sexuality, and God, all the standard issues that you would expect a man experiencing an emotional breakdown to have.
There is purity and sensitivity in this work, and Hutcheson's ability to convincingly relive his cross-country experience under the direction of DB Levin makes it a success. The only blemish in this production is the overuse of slides, video and film projection. Some of the images logically support the unfolding drama, but because there is no break in visuals, it distracts heavily from his performance.
Hutcheson comes out of The Purpose of Matter In the Universe having encountered dams that are not meant to be penetrated and gaining hope and acceptance. It is a fortuitous conclusion that is elusive to many, and his awareness of this makes this play endearing.
Through August 4th. $15-18. Stage Left Studios: 438 West 37th Street,
Suite 5A, New York, NY 10018. Tickets: 212-868-4444