rogerandtom: Pardon My Fourth Wall

 

Stephen Radochia and Anna Waldron, Photo by Diane Libby.

rogerandtom by Julien Schwab, Simple Machine Theatre, Davis Square Theatre, 3/30/12-4/7/12, http://www.simplemachinetheatre.com/productions.html. (one spoiler–marked)

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Somerville, MA) Julien Schwab takes the idea of a play within a play to a new level.  Exploring drama and its tools, rogerandtom pulls, tears, twists, and turns its melodramatic plot cleverly until its end.

Deconstruction and meta-fiction are dangerous areas to venture into.  How does a piece that is self-aware still function organically?  How self-referential can it get before it loses its audience?

Upon entering the theatre, one might posit who raided the IKEA store for the set.  The lights go down and the theatre’s encompassed in darkness with sounds rising up and bringing the play’s world to life; the lights come up; there’s the IKEA furniture.  I have no problem with IKEA and in fact I like IKEA–it’s simple, functional, and CHEAP.  I had no problem accepting that an imaginary world was being set up.  There was tape on the floor to indicate walls–I’ve worked in theatres with non-existent budgets and Simple Machine Theatre Company is a new theatre company that probably doesn’t have a lot of money, so other than wondering if the furniture was actually from IKEA, I accepted the world in all of its rehearsal space glory–as to the rest of the audience to some degree–no one walked out. Skip past spoiler

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*********     SPOILER ALERT!!!*********************

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The play starts off with Anna Waldron as Penny, a bubbly, young woman who is waiting to take her brother to a play.  Her ex, Richard played by Stephen Radochia drops by and the couple face a rather normal domestic scene.  The dialogue and action seems like a young playwright’s attempt to emulate Tom Stoppard.  It seems as if this is going to be a long, bumpy hour and fifteen minutes.  But then Roger arrives.  Roger takes all of the theatrical conventions and argues against them.  Richard’s world is never the same and Penny…well, she has a moment of doubt…

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Anna Waldron completely immerses herself in Penny’s world with unbreakable focus as Penny.  Even when she has one “moment,” she does not betray Penny’s function in the play and does not show Anna Waldron at any time.  Stephen Radochia is the calm, even-keel Richard, er-Will, who keeps Penny blissfully ignorant of her circumstances while he provides direction for Roger.  Andrew Rhodes plays clueless to hostile as Roger while allowing himself to be placed into the narrative.  Each actor’s character keeps his/her function within the show.

Confused yet?  Stephen Libby makes sure that the action moves by quickly without having it trip on its own script (well, except when the script confronts the actors).  Schwab’s script takes hold at the first twist and shreds itself until every line is exposed.  This meta-play confirms Stoppard’s line in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead:  “Every exit is an entrance somewhere else.”  Although  it pokes and probes dramatic structure, technique, and instruments, rogerandtom manages to do so without stripping theatre of its mystery…which is why we’re there.

 

 

 

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