Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wakey, Wakey


Reluctant as I am to repeat an expression I learned from Ted Cruz, I have to say that Will Eno’s latest work for his Signature Theatre residency is a nothing burger. The only possible reason to catch it is the all-too-rare opportunity to see Michael Emerson (Gross Indecency) back on stage. No one does misery better than Emerson, and he certainly has cause to be miserable here. He plays Guy, a dying man in a wheelchair, who feels the need to entertain the audience and repeatedly apologizes for not being up to the task. He shares his final words of wisdom, jotted down on index cards, and uses a remote to project old photographs of childhood, a word puzzle and a YouTube funny animal clip on a large screen. If you remove the repeated apologies, long pauses and photographic distractions, there’s probably not more than half an hour of dialogue. About half way through the proceeding (I am loathe to call it a play), he is joined by Lisa (the radiant January LaVoy), a caregiver who brings a bag of fortune cookies that she shares with the audience. The final moments are an assault on the senses involving video collage, bubbles, balloons, bright lights and a disco ball. To me, it came across as a desperate attempt by the playwright-director to distract the audience from the inadequacy of all that preceded it. I posit that under the pressure of owing Signature a new play, this was the best that Eno could throw together. No matter. I’m sure the establishment critics will call it brilliant. The main elements of Christine Jones’s scenic design are a bunch of packing cartons, a pile of disheveled clothes and a never-used door flanked by two small evergreens. Playing Bolero as background music before the play was a trite choice. It was only 75 minutes without intermission, but it seemed much longer.

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