Satirical Arrow just grazes from “what do you mean”

Review by Robert Liebowitz

The people at Ego Actus (nice name!) have offered before the Gods of Theater “what do you mean,” a play by the prolific Bruce A! Kraemer, as part of the New York Theatre Experience, being performed at the Gene Frankel theater downtown on Bond Street.

The main problem is the play itself. The playwright simply does not know what he wants to say, or what he wishes to impart to the audience. The play seems to be a satire about theater people in general, with specific unmanned drones aimed  at the various head honchos who run those summer festivals that has suddenly sprung up in the city.

It starts with hope and humor: within minutes, the fourth wall is obliterated, the lights take on a life of their own, and actors/actresses are running around, going here and there, breaking all conventions and operating on many levels, all the while poking fun at itself (“I have a Master’s Degree in Theater!” one of the actresses keeps shouting to the heavens, as if her prayers for a paying job will be answered). The action is light and bouncy, almost skit-like, but funny in spots and always with its heart in a good place. The high point of the ‘drama’ is given by the talented Alexandra Cohen Spiegler, who plays Peyton the Intern–she turns toward the audience, musical triangle in hand, and in that lovely, hilarious Carol Kane kind of way (who? Google her), explains what a head shot is–what it is supposed to be at least, and all the absurdity that surrounds it. Funny, and very clever.

Soon, however, the dog-and pony show gives way to harsher realities–there is no rooting interest in any of the characters, even the ‘lead’–playwright Chris Oakmont, performed in a way-over-the-top fashion by Teddy Lytle. The inside jokes are too inside; the broad physical humor falls flat most of the time. There is nothing at stake–the ‘play’ depicts the rehearsal process from page to stage–kind of, with dismal, unfunny results. Of course, this being an attempt at satire, comedy should rule the roost, but it simply doesn’t. The last thirty minutes or so were, quite frankly, interminable, and when the ‘play’ is re-tooled in a workshop scenario, much of it must be deleted or greatly diminished.

dowhatyoumean

Kudos to the acting troupe, who did their best.

Singled out for particular praise would be J. Dolan Byrnes as the Producer (winner of a Planet Connections award for this role), who had a keen since of timing, even while Rome was burning around him; and Ms Spiegler, who performed several roles deftly and with equal aplomb.

Lesson to be learned: When you take a shot at theater,

you better make sure your own theater is in order.

 

 

 

 

Theatrical journeyman, Robert Liebowitz, is a published author of non-fiction, theatrical works, and soon his first novel. He is also a produced playwright and acclaimed educator. He has contributed to periodicals ranging from blogistes to the New York Times.

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