(in deeply dramatic movie announcer voice—basso profundo): In a wwwoooorld which might not even be our woooorld, or perhaps our wooorld as portrayed by another wooorld, one woman– possibly representing everywoman–is married to one man—as portrayed by multiple men—stepping in from somebody else’s world (which would no longer be their world, but our world, which could just as easily be switched at birth from another world) comes a play from the creator of “Nostalgia is a Mild form of Grief” and “Eudaemonia” by way of writer Jerry Lieblich and the director of “Eurydice” and “SubUrbia” aka Doug Oliphant.
Okay…but no seriously- Let me break it down for you now, play-review-style:
“D DEB DEBBIE DEBORAH” played by Jenny Soo is married to Karl played by Greg Nussen, but also portrayed by Travis York. She is also assistant to pretentious/obsequious artist Mark, also played by Greg Nussen, Travis York and Kerr Lordygan. Mark is also played by Alina Phelan–who also plays D Deb Debbie Deborah. Still with me on this…? Okay, maybe I can make this a little more simple for you: Almost everybody plays everybody at some point in this production. There!
The play takes place in an aesthetically simplistic apartment in New York (and/or any other large presumably American burg where quarters are cramped, the tune of traffic: prominent, and voices cohesively muffle in more or less garbled white clamor to further assert their crowding. It is the eve of Deb’s new job. (Yes, from here on out, I will call her Deb, simply put, because that seems like the most apt nickname to the primary actresses’ vibe—even when the men folk step in and perhaps utter a line or two meant for her on occasion). Deb’s new occupation: Assistant to one of the most seemingly famous, yet snobby, multi-persona-clad artists in the Western Hemisphere.
Theatrically speaking, the piece begins in very singular and arresting fashion featuring impeccable comedic/dramatic timing from the likes of Jenny Soo, Greg Nussen and whoever the heck’s behind the outer apartment door posing as someone Deb knows and Deb, in all fairness, thinks she knows. But who can tell as the outer intercom’s so muffled, it is more garbled than any given microphone wielded by your average New York subway driver. Said character subsequently makes the better of Deb’s perceived naiveté and inferior intercom resonance, proceeding to take her for all she is worth!
Deb discusses the incident with a supportive but surprisingly composed Karl as he arrives home to change into formal attire for an occupational function all the while lamenting his mother’s mystery illness which has rendered her near completely incapacitated and hospitalized. The balance of this conversation occurs with Karl, unseen behind the bathroom/bedroom door, (taking longer to change/ get ready than any man I have ever had the good fortune, or perhaps misfortune to ever meet) and Deb in the core living area. At the scene’s apex, she muses almost to herself, a notion pertaining to fate, and not really knowing Karl. He could just as well be someone else. Moreover, what if she had married someone else (all the deep, otherworldly topics you usually deliberate whilst talking to someone on the other side of a bathroom door—albeit typically punctuated by a flush) only, as if on command to her reverie, to have Greg Nussen be replaced by Travis York upon exiting the door of this most elaborate costume change!
And this is where it all gets crazy!—Seriously, one of the best, most arresting beginnings to a play I have ever seen– until the moment has passed for far too long and, I am completely accustomed to the concept (of other actors playing other actors’ initial roles) and am hankering for either an additional concept to be broached or a thickening plot twist t evolve! (Layers Baby. I need LAYERS!!!)
Sure, Deb goes to work for Mark, the artist, and Karl still visits his mother in the hospital. But nothing that wasn’t initially addressed in the first few minutes is ever really explored, and eventually as the play continues to unfold, it just feels as though there is far too much is going on–yet not enough.
Thing is, heretofore, and even still, absurdist, avant garde theatre never really was big on plot and tends to replace that with A LOT of REPETITION in conceptual significance. While not the genre’s fault per se, a part of me feels it is high time for an upgrade which includes an upping of the ante to balance out the sentiment a la Beckett 2.0 Or a Galaxy Ionesco 7. You CAN have both! Ironically and coincidentally enough (yes both words can play both roles in this instance, just as the actors in the piece) the characters were also labeled Actor A, Actor B, Actor C in the program. So why not at least alphabetize the plot lines?
A large part of the problem lies in the fact that it commenced on such an arresting and idiosyncratic note, there was nowhere else to go to top it unless something additional was presented. (~sigh~ Or maybe it is my problem all together and this is really just not one of my favorite styles of theatre…)
As foreshadowed earlier in the review however, the acting is just top notch! Jenny Soo is the perfect combination of matter-of-fact and occupationally affected. Greg Nussen added a breath of fresh air to the heretofore criminally asphyxiated room wherein his wife might have conceptually taken her last!—BREATH that is… Travis York is both tempestuous and timid to tender in his role as Mark, Karl and Mark respectively (but certainly NOT Karl Marx!). Alina Phelan is commanding in all her roles, even that of the men folk, when not commanding them all in fabulous female form, and Kerr Lordygan is the deliciously animated Maraschino Cherry to top of the hot fudge sundae of the awesomeness that is this cast! Direction by Doug Oliphant is the ice cream that stickily mooshes the entire Sundae together!
While the ending was fairly touching, like a somewhat metaphysical Hallmark card, it missed out on the quirky, unexpected tenor I so loved, at the plays’ commencement.
In short: not quite enough “aha moments” after the initial reveal, but in keeping with its humor, and acting appeal, certainly a fair amount of “ha ha moments!”
“D DEB DEBBIE DEBORAH” runs at Theatre of NOTE until…
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