Friday, May 23, 2008

Enough about You: Let's Talk about Me

Catherine and I went to the theater last night: Kirk Wood Bromley's Me. While the play didn't really work for us at all, we both thought the director, Alec Duffy, and the actors all did a first rate job. We've known Alec for several years now and have seen most of his recent productions; he was also one of the artists commissioned by PWP for our 2004 Don Quixote performance, In Praise of Folly. As a writer, Alec uses language very sparingly, which allows his characters to share information about themselves through their actions and expressions—visually—rather than having to explain it all: the first piece of his we saw, set in a fast food restaurant, had several extended silent scenes where the characters were simply eating onstage. He also has a core group of actors he works with regularly who are comfortable with... well, with not talking. His style has made for some very quirky—but never boring—productions.  

This performance actually started off pretty strong. Each of the actors has a very natural and engaging quality—all very different from one another, but all worked together incredibly well as an ensemble. I accepted the meta-theatrical idea of a dozen actors playing the same character—Bromley—and was ready to see where they would be taking it. For Catherine and me, though, it never really went anywhere. Alec did a fine job of keeping the production moving and of using my favorite performance space in NYC—the Ohio Theater—to the best advantage. I particularly liked how the production managed to abstract and exaggerate the physical world of the play: fights were sparely choreographed, the actors manipulated several different light sources—flashlights, strings of cage lights, and photographers' light boxes—to create a variety of interesting effects, and there were some exceptionally well-designed puppets that were used very effectively. But ultimately, it felt to me like a group of very talented artists had created a lot of strong moments that didn't add up to anything.

Catherine and I ultimately disagreed as to what we thought worked best in the play. She thought the Chinese myth of the white dolphin was the most interesting story line; I thought Bromley's personal story had the most potential. Neither ultimately worked for us because the tenuous connections between them just felt too strained. 

Because of Bromley's particular fondness for linguistic gymnastics, the actors get to play with a lot of fun language. A few times during the play, Catherine and I both laughed at a line for it's (perhaps) unintended meaning. One that I thought summed up my overall experience nicely: "When I have nothing to say, I talk."

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