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, December 23, 2006

A Crazy Sound

The strongest moments of “A Crazy Sound” lie in exploring the unconventional sounds of an insane asylum, those that cannot be contained or expressed in the light of day. Yet the play quickly devolves into a traditional theatrical form, stunting Dario D’Ambrosi’s promising premise and opening scene.

Reviewed by Jessica Freeman-Slade

The inmates of “A Crazy Sound” (from left to right: Meredith Summers, Celeste Moratti, Lucy Alibar, Emma Lynn Worth, Kat Yew, Sheila Dabney.)
Credit: Jonathan Slaff.

Like all good experimental theatre, Dario D’Ambrosi’s “A Crazy Sound” begins in the near-dark. The bareness of the LaMama warehouse annex provides the perfect setting for six women curled beneath white hospital sheets, as a nun recites the Hail Mary up and down the corridor. The sleeping bodies soon pick up the recitation, and the audience is drawn into the possibility that finding this sound beautiful and incomprehensible insinuates that we are the ones made “crazy” by staying to listen to this sound. The opening five-minute sequence, modeled on D’Ambrosi’s observations from a stint in a psychiatric hospital in Milan, embraces all the possibilities of the term “experimental” and truly hooks the audience.

Yet when the lights come up, you are saddened by their return. The women’s vocalizations of their experiences turn trite when they are forced into the realm of regularly paced exposition, from the most benign (Lucy Alibar, exacting hilarious vengeance on a cheating husband) to the most grotesque (Celeste Moratti, counting and muttering as she limps around the hospital floor.) Songs from the inmates punctuate the story, and the plainness of the melodies becomes gratingly mundane when compared to the opening sequence. The inmates even put a fashion show, to delight the visiting daughter of Kat (Kat Yew), who despite her desire to be a good mother will never be able to get out of the hospital. As the women prance about in dolled-up hospital shifts, you don’t feel a longing to see them get out and live their lives, but rather a desire to see them try to get better.

D’Ambrosi seems to both embrace the women’s madness (and inexplicably use it to comic effect) and to insist that the audience be terrified by them. In explaining the women’s insanity, the play’s greater meaning is clouded rather than clarified. Though D’Ambrosi should be given credit for the exact diagnoses unknown, none of these women’s stories lead us to any conclusion about their actual madness, or about how the music they make is either a cure or a palliative. The women certainly seem to enjoy it (and so does the nun, inexplicably) but the audience leaves without sufficient sympathy or even interest. We start in the dark, yet the ending leaves us hoping for something a little bit brighter.

The strongest moments of “A Crazy Sound” lie in exploring the unconventional sounds of an insane asylum, those that cannot be contained or expressed in the light of day. Yet the play quickly devolves into a traditional theatrical form, stunting Dario D’Ambrosi’s promising premise and opening scene.

LaMaMa E.T.C., in its Annex Theatre at 74A East 4th Street. Tickets $20. 212-475-7710.

Shows run through December 30th, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Coast of Utopia: Shipwreck

Visually thrilling but not as intellectually stirring as Voyage, Shipwreck is a great compliment to the Coast of Utopia trilogy, but a little dry and melodramatic on its own. Worth seeing for the strong ensemble cast, even if the leads are playing too safe to tap into any real emotions.

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Tom Stoppard’s Voyage was a very heavy play: as the first part of an epic trilogy about Russian intellectuals and their revolutions (The Coast of Utopia), it bore the responsibility for establishing characters like the exuberantly radical Michael Bakunin (Ethan Hawke), the passionate literary critic Vissarion Belinksy (Billy Crudup), and the formidable thinker Alexander Herzen (Brían F. O’Byrne). By contrast, Shipwreck, the second part of the trilogy, is light and often comically witty—it sails on the good humor and fortune amassed by the initial installment and suffers little tragedy (or emotion) until deep in the second act. That’s a little ironic, considering that the first act comprises the French revolution, but the big events always seem to happen from afar (in fact, they’re often staged far in the hollow recesses of the gigantic Vivian Beaumont theater). Stoppard is more interested with the reactions of individual cogs than with the entire mechanism, which explains why the second act of Shipwreck focuses on the fomenting of Herzen’s philosophies on life after the tragic (and offstage) death of his deaf son.

Though Stoppard is technically correct when he claims that each part of The Coast of Utopia stands alone, Shipwreck doesn’t do much by itself: it starts off as a dry exchange of idealisms in Paris and then travels to Nice for a shallow tale of adulterous passion. The former is a shadow of Voyage, the latter is a spectral stab at Chekhov—both seem perfunctory. Herzen simply isn’t as interesting as Bakunin—even when he catches his wife, Natalie (Jennifer Ehle) having an affair with the poet George Herwegh (David Harbour) his stoicism drains the danger from the scene. Such internal mystery is fine for characters who are still on the periphery, like Ivan Turgenev (an excellent Josh Hamilton) and Nicholas Ogarev (Jason Butler Harner), and we don’t have time to delve into the souls of thirty characters, but there ought to be more for the protagonist. Stoppard defines Herzen by history rather than action; consequently, O’Byrne speaks to make the words big instead of allowing the words—those dim, desperately grasped-upon ideas—to make him big. A character defined by words alone is more golem than human.

However, within the context of the entire cycle, Shipwreck is a far more enjoyable evening. It’s not often that we get to see characters grow over several decades or to see talented actors like Richard Easton and Martha Plimpton making the most of small roles. The extra layers from play to play add dimensions to otherwise static scenes, and even at its most boring, director Jack O’Brien has made The Coast of Utopia beautiful to look at. Shipwreck winds up, fittingly, like Herzen: focused more on the technical marvels of O’Brien and company than the emotional range of O’Byrne and company. (Not to diminish the cast in whole: Bianca Amato and Amy Irving, among others, are stunning.)

Because there is less meat to Shipwreck, O’Brien has flavored his theatrical stew with vibrant staging and a transformative set. The deep recesses of the Vivian Beaumont Theater are used in full to play with perspective to show us the Place de la Concorde in Paris being sacked by revolutionaries. Giant chandeliers and oppressive skylights capture the attention and focus the mood better than complex, two-ton sets. Even the simplicity of a watercolor scrim is enough to make us feel at home in Italy. And with just the faintest touch of lighting, O’Brien can plunge us into prison or carry us across the ocean. During segues, characters sing, lending an operatic quality to an already epic cycle. It’s a pity the heart of the play doesn’t match the quality of the staging.

There are, however, high hopes for Salvage. Voyage set up believable characters and breathed the great revolutionary ideas into them. Shipwreck spends its two-and-a-half hours draining these characters of their hot air. Revolution is in the air, and even if it doesn’t reach us in Salvage, we’ll at least have one final opportunity to enjoy O’Brien’s marvelous direction.

Vivian Beaumont Theater (150 West 65th Street)
Tickets (212-239-6200): $65.00-100.00

Monday, December 18, 2006


Strings has the potential to be a better play, but perhaps only in one of these hypothetical parallel universes that it refers to. Here on our Earth, the parallels between unexplainable tragedy and mysterious science are too loosely knit to be the membranes of m-theory, and the cast is too uneven to be its strings.

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Intellectual plays are only as good as they are clever, and although Strings is occasionally very smart, the majority of Carole Buggé’s text goes about reminding us of that fact. (Characters are constantly quoting poetry as if Brit-Lit were the intellectual equivalent of street cred.) The conversations about string theory are fascinating, but not when the actors have to break the fourth wall and use illustrative examples to explain it. That’s like admitting that the parallels between science and society aren’t clear enough. As for the affair at the heart of this play—June cheats on her cosmologist husband, George, with their best friend, Rory (a particle physicist)—it must not be interesting enough, because Buggé adds their scientific idols: there’s a very foppish Isaac Newton (Drew Dix), a dowdy Marie Curie (Andrea Gallo), and a very stolid Max Planck (Kurt Elftmann). Rather than fix the tedium of the train ride or the lulls in the conversation, Buggé uses fantasy to build intimate exposition. As a final element, there’s the raw emotion of June and Rory’s dead son—not just dead, by the way, but 9/11ed. (If playwrights are going to keep using 9/11 as a tragic catchall, then I can verb the tragedy.)

The Open Book production company focuses on minimalist productions that emphasize the literature and the script more than the theatrics, and that’s fine for a thinking play like Buggé’s. But it also means that when the text dries up or the actors falter, there’s nothing to distract us. Mia Dillon’s fine playing Rory as a callous flirt, but it’s hard to believe her when she’s crying over her dead son. Keir Dullea doesn’t seem to know his lines, but he’s fortunately cast as a pompous aristocrat, which makes it hard to tell when he’s fumbling or just being British. The shining star of this piece is Warren Kelley, whose roguish, cockney explanations of the uncertainty principle make for jarring, dramatic work, and a world where Strings can parallel Frayn’s Copenhagen.

The second act brings a nice twist: this time, Rory and June are married, and George is the cheating best friend. It’s interesting to watch the events play out again, but when June says, for the second time, that she’s got the oddest feeling of déjà vu, it loses its charm. Strings suffers the same fate: the story itself (and the science) is interesting enough, but only when left alone. The more Buggé adds, the emptier it seems.

78th Street Theater Lab (236 West 78th Street)
Tickets (212-362-0329): $18.00
Wednesday-Saturday @ 8:15

Earth in Trance

A smart play with a strikingly capable cast, Earth in Trance packs on cultural reference after cultural reference, eventually spinning out of its own plotline and into provocative, captivating chaos.


There is a wall in Brooklyn that is covered in graffiti, splattered with the following phrase: “I asked for paté. I suffered. I asked for paté.”

In many ways, this small patch of scrawl accurately sums up the action of Earth in Trance, written and directed by the Brazilian visionary Gerald Thomas and playing at La MaMa through December 30th.

The sixty-minute play, performed by Brazil’s Dry Opera Theater Company, is set in a mercurial singer’s dressing room as she waits to go onstage and perform the role of Isolde in Wagner’s opera. To help pass the time and soothe her nerves, the Actress (played by a comely and lingerie-clad Fabiana Gugli) drinks, pops pills, and talks to her only confidante in this world, the Swan (brought to life by the engaging and duck-billed arm of puppeteer Juliano Antunes and voiced by the wonderfully apathetic Gen X intonations of Seth Powers).

Early on, a driving theme of the play is set forth – how crazy is ‘crazy’ in a world as upside-down as our own? As the Actress coddles and feeds her Swan with an ASPCA affection quickly undercut by the her admission that she intends to fatten him to make foie gras, we learn that crazy is just another word for nothing left to lose.

And just like that, the humor of the play is revealed – Earth in Trance is rooted solely in the absurdity of the modern world, calling on current events and 21st century hot topics ranging from goose liver controversy to Rumsfeld’s departure to Foley’s fast-typing fingers to the O-Zone layer, all to furnish jokes for characters so completely out of their minds that the Actress can only conclude, “We are inside the head of George W. Bush.”

Gerald Thomas is no stranger to the absurd, having worked with Beckett and both directed and adapted many of the quintessentially existentialist playwright’s works. Thomas repeatedly references both Beckett and his absurdist contemporaries throughout Earth in Trance, turning the play into a sort of inside joke for any theater buff or drama major. We’re even told how Godot got his name, why Pinter so loves the sound of silence, and the many frustrations encountered when trying to simultaneously follow the Stanislavski method and flirt with fellow performers. This is a smart play, no doubt about it, and it quite obviously knows its genre well.

However, as smart as Earth in Trance is, it seems to get so mired in its cultural references that the play can’t take a step towards defining, let alone resolving, its own action. Earth in Trance goes everywhere and nowhere at once, and while Gugli is quite something, tearing up monologue after monologue onstage (as she well should, considering Thomas wrote the play for her) and Antunes’ and Powers’ joint performance is altogether fascinating, Earth in Trance spins so quickly around so many issues that it throws itself entirely out of orbit.

Earth in Trance packs quite a punch, indeed, but at the end of the hour, one wonders a bit what all the blows were for. Still, the show is worth seeing for anyone interested in the future of Absurdist Theater in a post-post-modern, hyper-paradoxical world. After all, there are far worse things that being barraged with smart ideas, even if they don’t come with a side of paté.


La MaMa (74A East 4th Street)
Tickets (212-475-7710 or $15
Performances: December 14th through December 30th, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:30pm and 8:00pm. There is no performance on Sunday, December 24th.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Dark times make for good dramas, and while the narrative of Heresy is too cluttered with half-explored incidentals, the heart is there. As an educational piece, it's worth checking out, but uneven acting may be too great a gulf for the audience to cross.

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Sabina Berman’s Heresy, playing at the HERE Arts Center, is an attempt both to represent the immigration of colonists to Mexico in the 16th century and the religious persecution of the Jews, even in the New World. The cast’s blunt speechifying makes the result more like a history lesson; the black boxes, hats, and masks left scattered across the empty emphasize this schoolhouse atmosphere. But it’s not a bad play, and as educational theater (based on autobiography), it’s surprisingly solid.

The action takes place in New Spain (Mexico) as it is “civilized” by Luis de Carbajal the Elder (a stilted, DeNiro-like Manny Alfáro). Luis is a genuine Catholic—or at least a fearful opportunist—but when he discovers that his relatives still practice Judaism, he remains silent. Other characters are swept into this fold as well, from the uneducated Jesús Baltazár (Andrew Eisenman) to Luis’s faithful servant, Pedro Nuñez (an often-flat Bill Cohen). Their stories wash in and out, but due to the years-spanning scope, they seem like moralist examples of persecution rather than dramatic scenes.

Heresy begins with the torture/interrogation of Luis de Carbajal the Younger (the charismatic Morteza Tavakoli): it makes sense, therefore, for the extended flashbacks of the show to come off as exhibits. There is defiance in Doña Isabel’s (the excellent Sue Hyon) Israeli pride, there is innocence in Rodriguez Matos’ (Mauricio Leyton) faith, and there is doubt in Luis the Younger’s soul. The drama comes from the conflict between young Luis and his brother, Brother Augustin (a haunted Daniel Damiano), and if Berman ever wants to focus the text, this is the ideal place to do so.

Heresy is a large show that could use a little more ambition. Crammed into ninety minutes, twenty of which are repetitive (yet brutal) scenes with the inquisitors, there isn’t enough time to really savor the theatrical life of the Jewish traditions and ceremonies that were forced underground. A marriage ceremony is forced to double as a confrontation, and several stories (like that of Jesús Baltazár) are told half in summarizing monologues, half in vignettes. A better balance needs to be found in the narrative structure for us to accept this type of confessional storytelling. But even unbalanced and occasionally clumsy, Heresy is an inspired piece of theater—it’s just not inspirational.

HERE Arts Center (145 Avenue of the Americas)
Tickets (212-352-3101): $15.00
Performances: 12/13 @ 7:00; 12/15 @ 7:00; 12/16 @ 2:00; 12/17 @ 2:00

Saturday, December 09, 2006

All Fall Down

All Fall Down
Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan

All Fall Down, written by David Ledoux, makes a striking introduction for the Theatre Recrudescence. This science fiction play warns of “the plague” which kills nearly everyone in Manhattan. “The cure” is available to a few selected individuals. But what is inherently interesting in this play is the irony of a “cure” that kills. The emotional and moral twists and turns of this play trap the audience because no one van escape the horrible plight of the “plague”. This is a great way for this company to make its debut. The play is well put together. The ensemble works well together and brings the world that they created to life. Despite some awkward scene transitions, this play puts this company on the board in a big way. All Fall Down is a delight. It’s provocative, scary, and comical, which is no small feat!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Love: A Tragic Etude

Love: A Tragic Etude is powerful, visceral theater wrapped up in fancy but minimalist avant-guarde direction. Graphic, unflinching, and led by the magnificent Melinda Helfrich, this show is not to be missed.

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Love was a battlefield long before they sung it that way. Love: A Tragic Etude is expressionist theater that merges the violence of Sarah Kane with the dystopian tragedy of Brecht. The individual pieces don’t always make sense, but they’re viscerally resonant and poetically raw. Taken together, the effect is an overwhelming study (set to live piano accompaniment, for those who don’t know what an etude is) in dismantling our values, punishing our heroes, and torturing our innocence. Love is not just blind—she is unflinching, too.

Written and directed by Juan Souki without a moment of respite or pity for the audience, love is dismantled at every turn. Even the gentle caresses of our two lovers, Fernando (Gil Bar-Sela) and Arena (Melinda Helfrich), are false: Fernando has already left the fictitious Red City for military service and Arena is reading his letter. Their unity is a mirage of Souki’s magnificent staging; a side effect of the short silent film we see that cites their celebration “five years of union.” Over the next ninety minutes, Souki carves time and space, using jagged physical techniques and delicately synchronized movement to make a brutally beautiful play.

The plot quickly becomes secondary to the incidents, but it’s enough to say that Fernando rebels against the ugly sadism of his military, only to be captured and tortured, a martyr for innocence and love. Arena is the unfortunate effigy of his suffering: when Fernando is first captured, the commander tells him that they’ve prepared a show. Two gas-mask-wearing soldiers bring a half-naked Arena onstage, slowly wrap her in cellophane, and then systematically rape her, changing her position with each ring of a triangle. It is a dehumanizing act: enough to make even one of the soldiers vomit with disgust. Her unborn child miscarries, and afterward, as she lies on a table, broken and discarded, one soldier, suddenly finding his humanity, sings a mournful aria for her.

The testament to the director’s arresting vision comes a few short scenes later: Arena stands with a basket onstage, when the four soldiers cross the fourth wall. Suddenly, they are the actors again—Jeremy Bobb, Aryeh Lappin, Kate Loconti, and K. K. Moggie—and they are heckling not Arena, but the actress herself. The rape was scripted—violent, but choreographed—but this, this is personal, and Souki has made the audience implicit in an abuse that blurs reality. Some of the other moments in Love come across as stunts (like a choreographed boy-band dance that springs out of a rote military march), but not this—this hurts. (And Helfrich, a fantastic actor, shows it.)

Love is an uncompromisingly dark vision of a doomed society, and Juan Souki has done a magnificent job at capturing our attention with a remarkably minimal set (just one heavy table, often slammed against the ground for emphasis, and some rotating wall panels). I’d be terrified to see what Souki could do with more resources: he does so much already with so little.

Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street)
Tickets (212-868-4444): $18.00
Performances: Monday, Wednesday, Friday @ 8:00; Saturday @ 3:00

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

An Inside Look at DirectorFest 2006

Posted by Aaron Riccio

Everybody remembers the actors, and if they don’t fall asleep, they’re aware of the playwright’s words, too. But outside of awards shows, how many people ever give credit to the directors? How many people recognize all the hard work that goes into pulling the disparate parts together, from scene work to scenery? Not enough, but perhaps more should: and if you’re looking for upcoming directorial talent, there’s no better place to turn than The Drama League’s DirectorFest 2006, its twenty-third festival of one-acts directed by members of The Drama League Directors Project.

Culled from a crop of young applicants, the fellows have an opportunity to network and learn from industrial professionals and get hands-on experience with NYC and regional assistant directing assignments. This year’s directors are Meredith McDonough, Alex Torra, and Jaime Castañeda, and below you can read how they view the industry, the process, and the importance of theater. Selected portions of their interview follows, but you can see the culmination of their vision Thursday, December 7 through Sunday, December 10 at the Abington Theater Center’s June Havoc Theater (312 West 36th St.), an evening (or afternoon) of new one-acts like Itamar Moses’ Authorial Intent or Jonathan Ceniceroz’s The Blessing of the Animal, as well as an old Harold Pinter play, One for the Road.


Jaime Castañeda, director of One for the Road, is an MFA graduate of the University of Texas, and goes where the work carries him. It’s a road that ranges from the Summer Play Festival (SPF, Welcome to Arroyos), to the theater company he founded in Texas (Firestarter Productions), all the way to the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska: “Good work is good work wherever you are,” says Mr. Castañeda. “Sometimes it happens where you least expect it. Above all, I like to take in as much as possible from anywhere and everywhere.”

Though Mr. Castañeda was the one director to choose a previously performed work for DirectorFest 2006 (and Pinter, of all the tight-lipped geniuses), it’s not so much a choice between loving classics over modern plays as it is a desire to “pick pieces that challenge me. I want to think and feel. I want my audience to think and feel. If I look at a play and don’t know what to do with it—then I’m excited.” Along that line, One for the Road is a play that presents this director with an opportunity to play with “great language and material” as well as the inherent intrigue of the show, a potency that Jaime describes as “what makes Shakespeare so rich.” The director is filled with the desire to ask: “What else can it be? How can we tell this story now?” At that point, the director is “a storyteller along with my other collaborators” and can focus on “telling a story that will engage an audience and provoke thought and reflection.”

In February, as a final part of The Drama League’s directorial fellowship, Jaime will be assistant directing with Neil Pepe for Parlour Song at the Atlantic Theater Company. If “the experience is the people,” then Mr. Castañeda’s work will only grow until finally reaching the wide scope that Jaime admires in director Peter Brook. “For me, it’s about working toward that kind of world perspective in which stories can breathe new life.”


Alex Torra comes to DirectorFest by way of Brown University/Trinity Rep’s MFA program. So far, he’s worked with Neil Labute on Wrecks and will be working as an assistant director with Eric Shaeffer on Saving Aimee when it opens in Washington, D.C. Right now, he’s finishing work on The Blessing of the Animals, a premiere by a colleague of his, the playwright Jonathan Ceniceroz. For Mr. Torra, the opportunity to direct with The Drama League was also a chance to collaborate once more with his colleagues from the consortium, the Latino Triumverate (along with Katie Chavez). Working from a collegiate history has made the development of The Blessing of the Animals “less daunting”: “Nothing is taken personally, and so we can agree, disagree, debate together, [and] celebrate together.” From the audience, it’s also a great chance to see art in the making: the result of artists with different backgrounds coming together to produce a singular work. Directing new work is daunting, agrees Alex: “You want to help realize the vision of a playwright, but at the same time, you don’t want to sacrifice yourself or your art in the process.” But at least in this case, this is one director who’s managed to stack his own deck.

Getting the fellowship with The Drama League was just another asset for Mr. Torra. At Brown, he had the opportunity to learn skills and exercise them to “really give your ideas, your passion, your voice real clarity,” and in a “tremendously safe environment with a loving and supportive community.” Like many young directors, coming out of Brown was a wake-up call, being “pushed out of that nest, it literally felt like falling.” Sacrifice is inevitable for one’s craft, but “[the fellowship] has been a tremendous help to assuage some of the fear that comes with that diploma.” It’s one of the reasons why grants and sponsorship of the arts is so important – in a thoroughly commercial world, how else can a new voice expect to be heard?

Likewise, how can one afford to pursue the types of theater that interest an upcoming artist? As a Miami-born Cuban-American, Mr. Torra’s interest is in “developing and directing work by my peers in the Latino community, those whose parents came to the United States in order to find a better life, and who find themselves living in two cultures at one time. These second generation writers write about things from a place that makes sense to me, and it’s nice to have a community of actors that personally understand these playwright’s words and are excited to bring them to life.” The exploration of this duality is exciting to watch, as is the passion of a director allowed to do what drives him: Mr. Torra will be working at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. “There’s a reason these works have been around for so freakin’ long, because they still make sense to us.”

A show like Blessing of the Animals allows Mr. Torra to pursue all of his passions. “I that take liberties with reality, where a kid can actually understand the neighbor’s animals who speak to him.... Anything is possible in a theater, anything can happen, and I like figuring out how far that can go, how it gets represented on stage, and how that allows for an audience to not only be entertained, but to feel something, either joy or anger or love or anything. If they’ve worked their heart and brain while watching one of my shows, I’ve done my job.”

DirectorFest 2006
December 7-10
Abington Theater Center's June Havoc Theater (312 W 36th Street)

Never Missed a Day

Never Missed a Day has a solid message about the way we balance work and play (or in this case, drown the latter with the former), but it's a story written in bluntness: at times it is literally all work, and no play.

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

I’d like to say that WorkShop Theater Company’s new show Never Missed a Day never misses a beat, because underneath the awkward pauses and “monolongs” (monologues that go on and on), Ken Jaworowski has written a decent show. And underneath their tics and too-rapt glares (where an actor tries too hard to let the audience know he’s listening), the actors have made a believable connection to their pathetic, self-deceiving office drones. It’s a testament to the truth of the material that even when the pace is so slow you can see a trail of slime, you’re still empathizing (even as your eyelids droop).

The thematic comparisons to Mamet’s classic Glengary Glenross come easy, but that’s the same for any show that bemoans the abuses of an office. But whereas Mamet’s play was filled with action and scheming, Jaworowski is stuck on one note, and in one location: the whole build is whether or not the retiring Deuce will finally tell off his boss, “the bowtie,” after forty-three years of suffering. This narrative structure is tragically indebted to the worst of Eugene O’Neill: the characters are solipsistic and soft, as opposed to Mamet, where they’re at least arrogant enough to be self-centered and slick.

At least the five characters—whether they’re playing a type or not—are different from one another. Though they’re often left sitting in “forget-about-me” silence while one character drones on, you generally believe that they are who they are. But the play makes its point by making the interior and the exterior into pathos: the characters don’t have charisma, and the actors and scenes are all the more dismal for it. Deuce’s final speech is a proselytizing breakdown of all the lies these characters have been feeding us for the last ninety minutes, but Deuce is one of those characters too and his warnings are as rambling and listless as most of the play.

The few lively moments are the intermittent anecdotes or jokes that capture the essence of office life. Director Thomas Coté capitalizes on them when he can, but given the confines of a dull, ill-lit back room of a local bar, we see it more as Coté clinging desperately to the funny bits before his capsized scenes go underwater again. Never Missed a Day isn’t a bad play; but if you missed it, it wouldn’t be the end of the world either.

The Workshop Theater (312 W 36th Street)
Tickets (212-352-3101): $18.00
Monday, Wednesday-Saturday @ 8:00

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Never Missed a Day

Never Missed a Day
Reviewed by:Nicholas Linnehan
The workshop Theater's production Of Never Missed a Day by Ken Jaworowski depicts the lives of five men who share their pains of being tied to a thankless, demanding job. Each character wrestles with a particular struggle and sacrifice they made for their career. Finally, Deuce, played superbly by Michael Shelle, breaks down and reveals the tremendous loss he withstood in order to satisfy his employer. Thankfully for him, he is now retired.
The ensemble does well at maintaining their honesty in their work. Shade Vaughn is especially noteworthy as Danny, the new yuppie. His presence and comic timing add nicely to the play. The cast could use to eliminate some lengthy pauses between thoughts and dialogue, as this detracts from the momentum of the play. Brian Homer, Nick, suffers from this which hurts his otherwise fine performance.