According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

FRIGID: Jihad for Vent and Dummy

Ron Coulter and Sid Star in Jihad for Vent and Dummy

Reviewed by Cindy Pierre

You may have seen plays before that attempt to debunk religious beliefs by emphasizing thought over faith, but you've probably never seen it done the way Ronald Coulter's Jihad for Vent and Dummy does it. In it, Coulter tells the audience that we're the “dummy” to his “ventriloquist” by conforming to religion and creating and subscribing to a faith instead of thinking for ourselves. Sid Star, the wooden dummy, acts as a devil's advocate and uses humor to question Coulter's points.

Before you remark to yourself that Coulter's mouth is moving, Star makes fun of him for that and other things involving the title and content of the show. Although Coulter takes caution not to single out a specific religion by name, the very title of the show and some of the dialogue suggest that he had Islam and Christianity in mind when he was developing the concept. It's just too bad that Coulter never makes a cohesive argument.

Between funny quips and a creative bit where he exchanges his voice for Star's, Coulter performs a play within a play with Star in order to establish the parallels between theater and religion. However, Jihad for Vent and Dummy is much more about making declarative statements about how arbitrary religion is rather than supporting it with solid examples. And never does Coulter allow for the possibility of faith/belief and intellect co-existing in a symbiotic relationship. Of course, to do that would negate the premise for his show. At one point, Coulter even inserts a Q & A session with the audience to get their feedback, showing insecurity in his theme.

Jihad for Vent and Dummy may get a few laughs, but this cutesy presentation and the lack of follow through won't get the spiritual and philosophical wheels turning in the direction that Coulter would like. You may be amused every once in a while, but you'll leave the theater the same way that you came in.
FRIGID FESTIVAL: Jihad for Vent and Dummy (50 min.)
Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery)
Tickets: $15.
Through March 8.

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