note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark
Stage Manager Sky Darling
Lighting Design by Ken Nero
Properties Manager Shari Kraus
Eli Chapman's slice-of-today production "nobody's home" is about being young right here in Boston, right now. The characters argue, empathize, put each other on and blow each other off; they can be intimately sincere one minute and egotistically manipulative the next, but nothing lasts for long. The kaleidoscope shakes, there's a whole new set of parameters being explored. Audiences used to "well-made plays" might at first expect all the accurately observed details of place and time and mannerism to build toward some momentous revelations or unexpected confrontations or bizarre plot twists. After a bit, however, the people on stage mrely continue to reveal themselves to one another and to the audience. And that's enough in itself.
Michael (Justin Catalino) is a sort of point-of-view character here. He's locked himself out of the apartment next-door while expecting a friend, and asks if he might wait also for a locksmith. He'll graduate from B.U. next Sunday in Business he says, expecting his large Italian family to ascend from Jersey to see this slightly square, slightly on-the-make, slightly posing, polite interloper. He has his own mobile phone that friends and family can use in emergencies.
Dwight (Adam Mutterperl) is the hip-tongued artist, twanging an unplugged electric axe, spraying glib jive and unsubstantiated stories of glory and conquest in all directions. At the beginning and the end of the performance he is showing the uncut rushes for his 8mm personal film --- as incoherent and unconvincing as he is himself. He's been living here the longest: nine whole months already.
Claire (Oona Flaherty) and JoJo (Annette Olszewski) have known each other since high school, but each clings to different unrevealed secrets. Flamboyantly sexy art-major Claire may have been raped and may be pregnant; quieter JoJo (for "Josephine) still pines for a high-school steady she knows just moved to Boston. Neither of them can quite believe Michael's attempts at hollow bragadochio, or his attempts to put the moves on both girls at the same time.
Finaly there is Suzanne (Andrea Asaaf), a nervously self-conscious fashion-designer wannabe and model/star in Dwight's cinematic masterpiece. She is as unknown to the other women as Michael, but she knows enough about Dwight to prick many of his artistic lies about himself.
On the surface, Eli Chapman's title refers specifically to the fact that every time Michael's phone rings, he's not there to answer it. But it also becomes obvious that none of these people are really "home" --- not securely in the bosom of a family, not living where they grew up, not completely at ease with their new or their old friends, not even particularly comfortable with themselves. On any level, "nobody's home".
This slice of young Boston life was built completely backwards from the usual play. The director worked for several months with each actor separately, focusing real memories on some factual person, then fleshing out with accents, posture and mannerisms a believable portrait that became a character. "any information we didn't know, we made up; any habits we were unsure of, we created. Once the characters were able to walk, talk, and act natural, they started interacting."
Only then --- apparently only two weeks before opening --- did the director give the cast the dialog he fashioned out of their improvised interactions. That is why Eli Chapman listed himself as Director, but takes no credit as playwright
That is also why the quicksilver believable truth of "nobody's home" soaks every gesture, pause, glance, and line. And why there are no conclusions. Being young, today, in Boston is always being, always becoming --- never concluding.