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.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

SoloNova/The Surprise

A family vacation in Asia becomes the backdrop for revealing long hidden secrets, in Martin Dockery's solo show.

Photo/Matthew Bressler

Reviewed by Ilana Novick

Defying recent cultural trends toward oversharing and openness, Martin Dockery's family hides their feelings. They don’t reveal big changes in their personal or romantic lives: they play "emotional chicken" instead, where the loser is the first to ask what's wrong or reveal a secret. Dockery's solo show, The Surprise, is Dockery’s chance to air these usually closely guarded feelings to an audience. The revelations are appropriately dramatic, but the impact is lessened without the perpsective of other family members to express their reactions to the surprises.

His father, a Vietnam vet, divorced from Dockery’s mother and now living in Vietnam, finally tells him what his life there really involves. The surprise includes a Vietnamese girlfriend and two half-siblings for Martin and his brother. Dockery's face makes the shock palpable, from the exaggerated shifts of his eyebrows, to the turns of his head and mouth, not to mention his lanky frame, which seems incapable of being restrained to a chair. His relentless energy is so engaging, you want to hang on his every word.

However, while Dockery’s physical presence is striking, his voice and pronunciation are often exaggerated— like a slam poet or rapper. The addition of rhythm distracts from what he’s actually saying, and makes it harder to keep up with the story. Also, despite the mocking tone he takes toward his families’ emotional reticence, he is shocked when Elke, his girlfriend, reveals that she’s slept with someone else—not because she has, as they’ve agreed to an open relationship, but because she’s honestly told him about it. Having the stage to himself also prevents Dockery from examining his father’s motivations for starting a new family and hiding that news from his first one. Long simmering secrets certainly create drama, but only hearing Dockery’s side of the story lessens the impact of the play’s revelations.

The Surprise (70 minutes, no intermission)

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