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Showing posts from March, 2018

Distant Observer

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photo by Paula Court
Distant Observer: Tokyo/New York Correspondence, presented by La MaMa at La Mama, was written by two playwrights, one in New York and one in Tokyo. The segments of the final script alternate between the work of the two of them. The play, then, is modeled after a renga, a Japanese verse form in which multiple writers collaborate.
The creative method is interesting, but Distant Observer reflects nothing of this dyad process. It simply makes no difference, as we can’t discriminate between the style of the two writers, at least in translation.
The two playwrights in question are Takeshi Kawamura and John Jesurun, and the play is strange even by Off-off-Broadway standards. Its five actors play characters who are essentially amorphous. Although one is called “Mary” at one point, the only other names assigned are “A” and “B”. One character even says “I’m not even a character. I’m just some kind of idea floating around.” and “I think we have become each other.” 
The story, su…

SHOOTER

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photo: Carol Rosegg
Sam Graber’s skillfully written play SHOOTER is a study of “a pre-emptive shooting massacre”. Jim has shot to death a would-be mass killer and seriously wounded a student in order to prevent the killer from “shooting up a high school”. We learn this through well-placed delayed exposition after meeting Jim and his attorney - an old buddy - in the first scene. Most of the play consists of flashbacks. Its scenes fill in the back story and relate the circumstances that lead to Jim’s preoccupation with his handgun. 
Jim’s wife and daughter have left him and he’s lost his job. He’s been abandoned by his higher-achieving pals. He’s drifted - for unspecific reasons - into a gun training class where the instructor, Troy, tells him “This place is for joyless fanatics.” Troy refers to a gun saying “What this is is purpose,” and he tells Jim “Once you belong, a man could get back to whatever he feels he’s lost.”
Jim is so ill-at-ease on the shooting rage that Troy nearly dismisse…

Extreme Whether

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photo by Beatriz Schiller
Karen Malpede’s play Extreme Whether, presented by Theater Three Collaborative at La MaMa, describes itself as “a Cli-Fi drama.” Its concern is climate change, and it explores the issue through a family drama. John is a climate scientist, Rebecca West his live-in colleague. Living with them are his 13-year-old daughter and an older gentleman called Uncle. John’s sister, Jeanne, and her husband, Frank, are visitors. The home is on protected land that John and Jeanne have inherited.
Needless to say, the characters of the climate scientists and the resistance they encounter refer to actual people and events. The character of John is particularly based on Dr. James Hansen, who warned Congress against global warming in 1988.
Ms. Malpede manages both to create both a moving family drama and to make a social statement in the vein of Ibsen. John and Rebecca, of course, are trying to save the world, and Jeanne and Frank are their avaricious foils. The play’s action is e…