Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hip Obscurity's "Maybe, Tomorrow": polymorphous diversity @ Sonnet Theater of The Producer's Club, NYC

Having spent her college and first post grad years focused on directing, Andi Cohen set out to write her first drama as “the most direct-able play possible.”  She chose romantic love as her theme, and handed her opus Maybe, Tomorrow (an experiment in love and chance encounters) to three teams, each consisting of a director and two actors to have at it.

The resulting trilogy, as seen on May Day, makes for an interesting and engaging exploration in spite of some unevenness in the writing, and more in its direction and performances. Cohen manages to create a kind of music in her dialogue that has inspired each of her initial directors to musical choices of their own. And even when the text seems elliptical or awkward as human speech, it achieves in its spare repetition the kind of poetic potency that has the ring of emotional truth.
Besides the obvious variations in the characters’ sex: the first act features a hetero pair, the second two women; the third two men, Cohen has inserted a short divertissement in the script for each unique pair.  These provide modulations that spice each retelling with a specific flavor in mood and tenses.

Chris Hale and Sarah Kinlaw (above)

We encounter the fetching Sarah Kinlaw cradling and strumming a ukulele while perched on the park bench that serves as the major set element for all three versions of the play. Presenting the first of the three characters named Taylor, she soon finds herself joined by her Syd (Chris Hale). The first several of their episodic scenes revolve around his inability to deploy the love bomb, and end with one or another of the pair putting off the consummation with the line that gives play its title. After a sometimes melodramatic 15 minutes, which includes her rather unconvincing attempt at menace with a pistol, the act concludes with the flashback scene that will round off each pair’s journey in the moment of its inception.

Above: Debra Disbrow (left) and Janie Nutter

If Eric Hunt’s naturalistic direction of this first explication seems most solidly rooted when the appealingly present Kinlaw plays her instrument and sings, director Jeremy Williams stylized rejoinder literally never quite finds its feet. This has much to do with the demands his choreography places on Debra Disbrow’s Syd and Janie Nutter’s Taylor in their not-so-comfortable medium-heeled shoes and skirts over tights. The clarity and economy of the actors’ vocal performances and of the director’s set re-arrangements, blocking, and sometimes whimsical textural ideas crash repeatedly against a sense of physical unease. This adds an unwelcome level of discomfit to the relationship’s already intense underlying sense of lyrical negotiation, and seems to undermine strain his actors’ committed attempts at emotional honesty.

Brian Murray (left) and Amir Wachterman (below)
Morgan Gould’s direction of the gifted Amir Wachterman (Syd) and Brian Murray (Taylor) caps off the production with a queer and antic tragicomic bang. The actors’ ability to go from spraying each other with super soakers to moments of vulnerability and tenderness provides the audience with an intriguing glimpse of the kind of theatrical tour de force that Cohen may have locked up within her tight-lipped script.  One wonders, for instance what couples or directors of different ages or cultural or ethnic types might bring to a dip in this fondue, even within the gender differentials.
Gould and her cast have gone the farthest in pushing the envelope of both the play’s comic and dramatic possibilities. Watching Murray’s and Wachterman’s characters suggestively pump up their super soakers, cavort in various drag, sport with whipped cream and become emotionally naked and present with each other allows the pain and joy at the heart of the piece to fully emerge. Whether  each exegesis could sustain this level of invention in the hands of a single director remains a question for another day.

Brian Murray (left) and Amir Wachterman (right)


  1. They both have created something, whether it is judged to be good or bad, it is still artwork and it makes them artists.

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