Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Goose And Tomtom"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark

"Goose And Tomtom"

Written by David Rabe
Directed by Matthew Gentzkow
Produced by Jennie Connery

Set Design by Helen Shaw
Lighting Design by Mara N. Fishman
Costume Design by Monica Eav
Sound Design and Compositionby Darin Goulet
Stage Manager Ryan McGee

Goose.............................Erik Amblad
Tomtom....................Michael Lopez-Saenz
Lorraine.....................Jordanna Brodsky
Lulu...........................Jennifer Neale
Bingo............................Jesse Hawkes

David Rabe's "Goose And Tomtom" is a reviewer's wet dream --- a play which is all abmiguities and studded with allusions and maybes, so anyone infatuated with the sound of his own fanciful speculations could improvise for whole pages on what things "might" or "must" mean. All reviewers think they're really critics, after all.

First of all, there's lots of room for "what's it LIKE" games. Tomtom (Michael Lopez-Saenz) and his nervously deferential friend Goose (Erik Amblad) are inert on the playing-area when audience arrives to sit on two sides, and they talk a lot to one another, so it might be like "Godot" --- except they're inside TomTom's room and each has a gun, so maybe it's like "The Dumb Waiter" --- except these are sleaze-bags, so maybe it's more like "The Caretaker" --- except that there are other characters, and two are women, but it's not at all like "No Exit" --- well, not exactly. But doesn't it give a great opportunity to wax poetical and weazel into sentences like "It's only faintly reminiscent of 'Aria Da Capo' in which, also, one of the fantasy-figures is really dead at the end"?

Then there's a whole layer of paranoia here --- enough paranoia to suggest they're coke-dealers, but they never sniff-up. They think they may be watched, others are making plans, they can't even depend, for certain, on each other, or even themselves. If you live in such an ambiguous world, anything might happen, even your worst fears.

Tomtom is the leader, but Lopez-Saenz plays his power-plays from an internal weakness that emerges only gradually. But Amblad's Goose is always the tool, going along with any idea from any one, knuckling under whenever contradicted. At one point Tomtom smashes him over the skull with a chair, and Goose is outraged --- at the wicked Chair. ("You can't tell anything from the expressions on my face," Goose insists. "Don't pay any attention to them; I don't.")

The pair are prey to fantasies, speculations, and dreams, which often merge into reality. (Goose thinks he really is the frog he dreamed he was.) When they fantasize about kidnapping Bingo's sister and hanging her in the closet as a sex-toy, Tomtom's girl Lorraine (Jordanna Brodsky) finds Lulu (Jennifer Neale) bound and gagged, hanging there, passively patient. Ungagged she placidly insists it is her lot, as a kidnapped princess, to await her hero's glorious rescue.

And there's yet another murky maybe for the critic to chew upon. Myth. Neale's languid Lulu and Brodsky's powerful, sexy, manipulative Lorraine are as much female archetypes as Goose & Tomtom are male. (Lorraine in the midst of sex with him asked Goose for his liver, and and squeezes it whenever he tries to contradict her.) When Lorraine says she was looking into the closet for her diamonds and found Lulu instead, doesn't it imply that the missing gems were an exchange? And if Lorraine can only look beautiful and feel happy with her jewels, the men must get them back from ... who? Why, from Lulu's adoring and incestuous brother Bingo, right?

In this odd play idea always preceeds fact, so the men don't go looking for him, Bingo is at the door. Jesse Hawkes' Bingo is the marked-down prey, the intended victim the moment Lorraine demands her diamonds back. Squirm and wriggle as he might Lorraine demands and Goose executes, and Bingo exits insisting he bears no hard feelings to anyone. (Is that a clue for critics to wax eloquent on the acquiescence to inevitability in Euripidean tragedies or what?)

And the play ends, in total darkness, with Goose and Tomtom going to sleep --- so maybe it was all a dream? "La Vida Es Sueno" after all, right?

Reviewers, though --- if there ever were such mythically objective animals --- would find "Goose And Tomtom" a difficult play to deal with. How do you get across how abiguous a play it is without describing so much of it? How can you say how good Jesse Hawkes was without tipping off his murder?

Perhaps it would be best just to state, baldly, what worked and what didn't. For instance, Sound Designer and Composer Darin Goulet was dead-on, providing techno-rhythmic nervousness to introduce and underscore the tension. And Master Electrician John Clearley and Sound Operator Joe Gratz combined a split-instant blackout/back up with a crushing sound-crash that were perfectly timed.

On stage, Jordanna Brodsky was a hard-as-nails Lorraine who could give an on-stage hand-job like a practiced professional, and Erik Amblad's Goose was a consistently animated toady. He and Jesse Hawkes, however, had uncomplicated roles. Michael Lopez-Saenz had many more levels to deal with as Tomtom, and started the show on so high an energy-level the role ran out of steam as his dominant position slid out from the center of attention. And Jennifer Neale, most of the time bound and for a while chloroformed, could be a disturbing presence but little else.

It's tempting, with a play such as this, to think Director Matthew Gentzkow just cast excellent actors, and then simply turned them loose to do whatever came to mind. But there were times where he played an excellent referee, deciding who should win the exchange, and what part of the space it would be played out in. What lines could be underplayed, how seriously new revelations were to be taken, and exactly where dream solidified into reality were completely controlled.

Less than half the attendees returned for the second act, and obviously this was not a play that appealed to sell-out crowds. It was a hard play to do as well as they did it, and the unexplained ambiguities would never satisfy an audience of any but dedicated theater-junkies and reviewers with delusions of grandeur. I, of course, had a ball.

( a k a larry stark)

"Goose And Tomtom" (till 2 August)
Loeb Experimental Theatre, 64 Brattle Street, CAMBRIDGE

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