Thursday, February 23, 2017

Evening at the Talk House

Perhaps it wasn't fair to see Wallace Shawn's mildly compelling dystopian play Evening at the Talk House so soon after seeing Caryl Churchill's wildly compelling dystopian play Escaped Alone, but that's the way it happened and I can't change it now.

Broderick, Shawn
Photo: Monique Carboni
Shawn's characters are theater people at a once-popular club called the Talk House; they are celebrating the 10th anniversary of a play they worked on together, written by Robert (Matthew Broderick), who is now in TV. An unexpected addition is to the party is Dick (Wallace Shawn, showing considerably more vigor than the rest of the cast), a down-and-out actor who knows that his career was badly affected by Robert's dislike of his work. There are also two servers, both of whom the theater people know. And, of course, plenty of liquor.

[spoilers, I guess] 

We find out, bit by bit, that theater has disappeared and that the US is practicing a form of self-defense that consists of identifying everyone in the world that might ever want to attack us and killing them. This is carried out, interestingly, not by the military but by everyday people in need of work. In fact, to the surprise of the rest of the people at the reunion, two of them are "targeters" (choosing who is to die) and one an actual murderer. The targeters defend their work avidly, seeming to genuinely believe that they are helping their country. The murderer is somewhat more ambivalent, but not as much as you might suppose/hope. The others express shock, but not that much shock, and not for that long.

[end of spoilers]

It's hard to work up enthusiasm for writing about Evening at the Talk House, since the show was bland, and the actors semi-sleep-walked throughout. I guess director Scott Elliott guided the actors to their low-affect performances for a reason, but the result is often boring. Dystopias should not be boring!

(In all fairness, there was some yelling and some emoting and a kiss; nevertheless, nothing connected. Only Wallace Shawn seemed three-dimensional.)

Wendy Caster
(third row, press ticket)

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