Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Oklahoma City"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark

"Oklahoma City"

by Tom Cole
Directed by Rebecca Bayla Taichman

Set Design by Kristin Loeffler
Lighting Design by Liz Orenstein
Costume Design by Harriet Voyt
Technical Director Richard Wood
Stage Manager Jeremy Johnson

Mary.................Christen Clifford
John..............Jon David Weigand

You probably don't buy things at the shop called Fresh Eggs. I don't either. I don't even want anything they sell --- kitchen kitsch and such --- and I couldn't afford any of it anyway, but I walk to the BCA from Back Bay on one side of the street looking into the print-shop and walk back on the other side and I always look at the window of Fresh Eggs and I want to go in and say "Who does your windows?" because they're always so incredibly well composed they're almost like Morandi still-lifes and, well, tonight I was really open to how beautiful even a windowfull of kitchen kitsch could be because that's what art does to me --- it sort of pries my soul and my eyes wide open and everything Looks Better for a while, so I came out of this play at the BCA and just stared into this delicately balanced window, remembering how good the play was and went on to the subway, only I didn't stop at the Orange Line I rushed past and on to the liquor store opposite the church on Boylston Street and got a pint of Old Thompson because I knew I was going to need it because, well no, Not because the play was so wonderful. But, because the play Was so wonderful I knew, for another reason, I'd need a pint of Old Thompson blended American whiskey tonight.

The play I'd come from is "Oklahoma City" by Tom Cole, and it's a frantically fast-paced uninterrupted hour and a half of non-stop inventiveness in which Christen Clifford (Mary) and Jon David Weigand (John) skate on the knife-edge of speculation about suicide and mass murder from rather believable though feverishly human terms. The whole thing is framed as the sort of endorphin-rush memories Mary has, exercizing, of her gay significant-other who's brooding on the fact that his unsafe sex keeps resulting in negatives. His compulsions and fantasies fixate on the phrase "Poor Judd is dead" (the song in "Oklahoma"), and their role-play games deal explicitly yet with artistic honesty with strip-tease, masturbation, a quite convincing crack-cocaine high (but what would I know about that, right?), secret recordings of therapy sessions, bizarrely believable performance-art, and almost plausibly possible suicide fantasies of taking scores of innocent victims along for the ride. The interplay of headline news and the movie "Halloween" becomes frighteningly logical.

The actors, and Rebecca Bayla Taichman their magnificent director, all come from elsewhere trailing glorious credits as long as your arm --- and all obviously deserved. (Why they would come to a city that lets the GLOBE and the PHOENIX sneer at their excellence I cannot understand, but I'm damn glad they have.) Their fearlessly ferocious concentration never flags as Cole's text conjures and toys with all the fears of modern life in rather believable though feverishly human terms --- or did I say that already? This is a fantastic surrey-ride with fringes of fantasy the color of blood, and with sounds (Dana Moser) costumes (Harriet Voyt) lighting (Liz Orenstein) and an only apparently bare-stage set (Kristin Loeffler) that enhance but never interfere with the two-actor dialogue.

This is a theatrical tone-poem of vitality and power --- the kind of experience that makes the calmly subtle composition of the Fresh Eggs window a refreshing delight. You should go, despite whatever negative feelings the harshness I describe might generate, to see just how uplifting such searingly honest art can feel. (Next Wednesday, if you need it, is a "pay what you can" night.) In the subway on the way home I spotted an actor from the Industrial Theatre, and I planned to get up at Jackson Square, the stop where I buy groceries, to tell him before I got off at Stony Brook that he Had To See "Oklahoma City" at the BCA --- but Jackson Square was his stop and he got off too soon, and so I'm telling you: go see this show. It was so good I needed Fresh Eggs, and so good I needed this pint of Old Thompson, because at the show's end, after applauding long and hard at such a deserving great job, when I looked around I counted, in the biggest fucking theater-space in the BCA, only ten other faces in the whole ghoddamned audience. And all of a sudden, I wanted a drink.


"Oklahoma City" (till 17 March)
BCA Theatre, Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide