Tuesday, August 13, 2013

EPICish - A Journey Through Georgia

EPICish, written by & starring Eve A. Butler. Part of the 2013 FringeNYC Festival, playing at Venue #9, Jimmy's No. 43, through August 25th, 2013.

Upbeat pop music with a violent undercurrent leads us into Eve A. Butler's examination of three women in Savannah, Georgia, coming back again in the brief interludes between each story (including Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" and Lily Allen's "Fuck You Very Much"), reminding us that inside the friendly atmosphere, beneath the veneer of southern charm, and behind the sweet doe-eyed face of Ms. Butler, darker thoughts and actions dwell.

Playwright and performer Butler has written three monologues inspired by some of the great heroes of traditional epic poems - Bea Woolf (Beowulf), Masha Gilyov (Gilgamesh), and Odessa (Odysseus) - all set in Nausicaa, a small coffee shop in Georgia. There is a satisfying interconnectedness of the pieces, though they tell disparate stories, as Masha mentions in passing the fate of Bea, or Odessa and Bea reveals a friend in common.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Einstein: An Absent-Minded Narration

Richard Kent Green and Sheilagh Weymouth as Einstein and
Elsa surrounded by reporters. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Einstein, by Jay Prasad. Directed by Randolph Curtis Rand. Starring Richard Kent Green. Currently running at Theatre at St. Clement's through August 25th, 2013.

As Act One of Jay Prasad's bioplay Einstein closes, the title character declares to the whirling electrons of reporters circling the nucleus of his press conference (sorry, couldn't help myself; carry on), "Do I think I'm the greatest scientist the world has ever produced? Does anyone doubt it?" The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

All biopics and bioplays face the same problem: they're supposed to stay true to the facts, even when they don't make a particularly compelling story; even when the ending disappoints. What's disappointing here is that Albert Einstein, who revolutionized physics and the way we look at the universe, does have a compelling life story - but Prasad hasn't presented it in a particularly compelling manner. Following Einstein's life from his humble beginnings in a patent office in 1905 through to his death fifty years later, Prasad's play gives us everything without enough editing down to give us a narrative with a through-line - a series of steps down an inevitable path, to the building of the man, the genius, the legend. So Act One in particular is peppered with scenes, not of young Albert on his scientific discoveries, but of him standing with old school friends, with his soon-to-be wife, with his former teacher, and narrating to each other flashbacks to respective youths (including an arbitrary use of accents for Mileva's parents, when no other scene or character sports them), however irrelevant they are to the supposed story being told. There's all too much telling going on here, and not nearly enough showing, and a lot of it feels irrelevant.