CATASTROPHES AND COMPROMISES
by Andrew Turner
published June 5, 2009
now playing Off Broadway at The Lion on Theatre
through June 6
The stated mission of the Resonance Theatre
Company is to “make classics new and make new classics.” Unfortunately, their current production of Reflections, now playing Off Broadway on Theatre Row, doesn’t do either. Although two of the five short
plays are classics, they are not presented in original ways. And as far as the other three original plays go… well, time will truly tell if
they will become classics, but I for one will not be holding my breath.
The evening kicks off with Compromise, an original play about a producer and director planning a reprisal of a Samuel Beckett play. The
director wants to keep it true to the original, while the producer wants to modernize it by setting it in some new political hot spot like
Rwanda or Afghanistan. The action takes place in front of an animate statue of Beckett which alternately leers or smiles smugly depending on
whether he likes the suggestion or not. It’s a slightly corny but amusing premise, and a good framing mechanism for what’s to
We then transition into Beckett’s The Catastrophe, a political play about the dangers of totalitarianism. Reminiscent of our first play, we
get a power-hungry director who is determined to impose his vision onto the lives of those around him. He orders his aide to constantly
reposition the inert model of a man, which symbolizes the people who are puppets in the hands of communist dictators. The staccato
existentialism of the piece is quintessentially Beckett, and it is admirably done, although in the end it offers us no revelations into the
nature of the playwright or his work.
Beckett considered the premiere of his play a
massacre, and we are in for a massacre of our own with our next play, Their Town, a long, drawn-out
and overly moralistic play about two former revolutionaries who encounter each other in the afterlife. Ostensibly it’s supposed to connect to
Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, but the only connection I was able to make was that the two characters
acted in the play in High School.
It’s a shame that the lackluster quality of the
first act drove out so many members of the audience, because the first play of the second act is easily the best of the night. David Arthur
Bachrach shines as the lead in Chekhov’s classic short play Swan Song, about a famous Russian actor
in the twilight of his career. It is, in fact, the one bright spot among a series of relatively drab and listless performances. It’s not
exactly the actors’ fault, though; the scripts don’t give them much to work with and the direction is all but absent.
It’s typical for a series of one acts to end with
a bang, but we get a real dud with our last play, What Happened Then, based upon two Englishmen in
the early 1800’s whose fates are intertwined. The coincidences which unite them are entertaining
enough at first, but as the series of unfortunate events gets longer and longer, it becomes a bit of an unintentional joke. The moral here
might be that reality, however fantastic, is usually too convoluted for the theatre.
Our program tells us that “all the plays in
Reflections portray characters grappling to make sense of their past in order to give meaning or
purpose to the present.” Rest assured, however, that you won’t feel like grappling with anything after this production. In this case, the past
is best forgotten.
read Cindy Pierre’s
review of Reflections