Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Sunday, February 23, 2014
From left: Kyle Robert Carter, Leajato Amara Robinson, Shabazz Green. Photo: Carol Rosegg.
From left: Jeremy Shamos, Marin Hinkle, Heather Burns. Photo: Jeremy Daniel.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Photo: Richard Termine.
From left: Elise Kibler, Alex Trow, Katie Gibson, Matthew Gumley. Photo: Richard Termine.
Stephen Plunkett, Elise Kibler. Photo: Richard Termine.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
The play lets us believe that he’s not the bomber, but, because of his paranoiac behavior, it leaves a few hints that he may be guilty of something; he emphasizes that he’s carrying a knife in his pocket but when he describes various nasty things he does with it, his words shift from reality to fantasy. Similarly, we’re not quite sure whether the sunglass-wearing law enforcement officer (Dahlia Azama) watching him and tapping his cell phone is real or in his imagination, but it really doesn’t matter because the playwright is equally interested in other matters. These include Amor’s personal relationships with Shavi, his cousin (Francis Benhamou), a hardware salesman (Mr. Sabitri), a girl named Valeria (Ms. Azama) who doesn’t return his affections, and a Valley girl-accented telemarketer named Carrie (Ms. Benhamou) who tries in call after call to get him to sign up with an animal rights group and eventually recognizes his voice as someone she went with to grade school (groan). We’ve seen this kind of character before, of course, but Ms. Benhamou deserves credit for nailing it and making it the most appealing aspect of the production.
Mr. Khemiri’s themes of racial profiling, immigration status, and suicide bombings are all significant, but they get lost in the jumble of side plots. The translation, in moving the action from Stockholm, which had a terrorist bombing in 2012, makes some odd choices when naming specific New York streets and fails to explain why Amor, on a mission to replace a drill head, has to do so in a hardware store in the Times Square area. And in what midtown New York subway station can you easily hold a cell phone conversation?
Never mind that the scenes range from several seconds to several minutes each, that none of the characters appears in more than one scene or even has a name, that the abstract set remains the same while varying from scene to scene only by the clever choice of scenic props, that there is no narrative arc as a whole and that deconstructing the play’s meanings requires academic analysis, and that if you realized half way through that there was only more of the same ahead you’d be thankful for an aisle seat to let you slip away quietly (the rows are too tightly packed to leave without a fuss). At least you’d be happy with the excellently realized technical requirements, the remarkably fast and mysteriously executed scene and costume changes, and the memorably ear-catching mixture of music and sound effects created by Christopher Shutt to cover the numerous shifts.
Susannah Flood, Lucas Caleb Rooney. Photo: Joan Marcus.
The dialogue is written in brief snippets with nothing to explain who’s speaking; in fact, there’s no indication of who the characters are at all, so the choice of who says the lines, what the situation or setting is, and so on can only be that of the director, in this case, the imaginative James Macdonald, who staged the Royal Court original. His achievement in bringing clarity to the individual scenes, which are essentially straightforward and realistic, no matter how vague their intentions, is exceptional. He also mines the material for comedy when appropriate, as in the scene of a man on an exercise bike talking about his having fallen in love with what sounds like the perfect woman until she turns out to be his computer (just as in the recent movie, HER). The actors all seem to know what their scenes are about, even if they’re on stage only momentarily (as with a pair of Elvis impersonators alluding to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict), and, despite what often seems elusive on the page, everyone’s objectives and attitudes are immediately clear, even if they seem to go absolutely nowhere. I can see the play serving acting classes well because of how it will force actors to find motivations and truth in characters and situations created with only a few strokes of the keyboard.
I can’t sleep
James Waterston, Kellie Overbey. Photo: Joan Marcus.