Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The After-Rhyme"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"The After-Rhyme"

by Sean Graney
Directed by Dan Milstein

Set & Props Designed by Sean McIntosh
Lighting Design by Jay Dubois

Costume Design by Bonnie Duncan
Stage Manager Joanne Savage

John............................John Schnatterly
Richter........................Joshua Callahan
Papaya..............................Sean Barney
Gretl...............................Kristin Baker
Elsinore..............................Tom Berry
Sarah...................................Irene Daly
The Sheep..................................David
The Oboe................................Clarinet

Let me say at the outset that I truly admire the pluck and showmanship of The Clarinet in going on at the last minute in the role of The Oboe and I am certain that, as the production proceeds things will certainly improve; its initial appearance as a broken oboe fulfilled Playwright Sean Graney's intentions flawlessly, though later entrances once repaired still require work. The largely human cast, however, acquitted themselves with deadpan seriousness exchanging some of the delightfully silliest lines uttered on any stage, and so this small lapse was no doubt detectable only to the thoroughly trained critical eye, and the many audience members seen rolling in the aisles will attest to the play's overall power.

Graney's is a very abstract world in which words and wording are very important, because people are what they say they are --- unless they're lying. Sean Barney's Papaya, for instance, says he's a slave, while John Schnatterly's butcher (also called John) prefers the word "servant". When asked if he's happy Papaya replies "I work for you, and work isn't supposed to make you happy; what makes me happy is setting things on fire." One of the things he sets on fire is himself. John initially identified himself an as oboist, displaying his broken oboe, but later comes on with a bloody cleaver in hand because he has been out back of his shop, butching with a vengeance.

Sean McIntosh's simple set and Dan Milstein's stylized direction emphasize the idea of game here, with people standing exchanging conundrums, and mechanic's worktables opening to reveal hidden fruit-trees. Kristin Baker's Gretl, for instance, has a smile that is aggressively pleasant and is accompanied by a lamb on casters (David gives an admittedly wooden though surprisingly peripatetic performance). When she insists the lamb follows her if its own free will she has no answer to "Then, why the leash?" But the ominous phrase "Remember, a leash has Two Ends" precipitates the final chop for freedom that ends the show.

The Oboe is dropped and broken when Joshua Callahan's Richter enters looking for a butcher named John, and he's only persuaded not to kill the man to whom he has said too much when he agrees to a game --- and is conked on the head with an enormous mallet. His father Elsinore (John Berry in a convincing white beard) is a retired pie-man hoping to find John's ex fiancee Sarah (Irene Daly) who says she isn't a gardener, but admits --- while playing a game of "honesty" --- that she's a very bad mechanic, even though she manages to fix The Clarinet! I mean, Oboe. She also admits she knew old Elsinore wasn't really John as he was quite unconvincingly pretending.

Milstein's director's notes admit "I find myself almost completely unable to describe or summarize" Graney's plays, and I have just proved how right he is! All this sounds like Theater of The Absurd, but it's not. It's silly, and delightfully so because everyone takes it quite seriously. Lewis Carrol and Sean Graney probably ate the same mushrooms. Go see for yourself.

Love,
===Anon.


"The After-Rhyme" (till 8 April)
ROUGH & TUMBLE THEATRE
Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1(617) 426-2787

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