Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Romeo And Juliet"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Larry Stark

"Truth & Beauty"

by Ping Chong
in collaboration with Jeffrey Rose and Michael Rohd
Directed by Michelle A. Baxter
Director of Electronic Media Joshua Dreyfus

Set & Lighting Design by Karim Badwan
Sound Design by Ken Porter
Costume Design by Summer L. Williams
Production Manager Sarah Shampnois
Stage Manager Matthew Breton

S.....................Shawn LaCount
M....................Mark VanDerzee
Stage Hand Right.........Mason Sand
Stage Hand Left......Joshua McCarey

There is one more week-end in which to experience "Truth & Beauty" --- a multimedia production devised by its original director in collaboration with Jeffrey Rose and Michael Rohd, who took the roles of S and M. Here the founders and major directors of Company One Shawn LaCount and Mark VanDerzee play those roles, and Media Wizard Joshua Dreyfus provides stunning video clips and live-camera effects. As has been true of most Company One productions, the show is careful in detail and exciting in execution --- though to get the total experience it would be best to plan on staying for the talk-back with the cast and invited guests after the performance, which I think is the intention of the company. I did so, and thus cannot confine myself to the 75-minute one-act alone. Nor can I possibly hide behind the usual critical impersonality. Every participant in the evening will come away with unique reactions. These are mine:

In my eyes, the show deals with two major ideas, which I never felt overlapped: one is the truly insidious way in which the subtext of advertising is inescapably brain-washing; the other is that guns really DO kill people because they much too easily fall into the hands of people willing to use them thus. That last idea is demonstrated twice: first in a self-serving lecture on gun safety by a shoting instructor demonstrating an Uzi; the other in a giddy series of childish re-creations of hand-gun killings with a pistol which may contain one last live round.

The acting is crisply and chillingly excellent, Director Michelle Baxter keeps pace and intensity pure, and the selflessly automaton-like Stage-Hands Mason Sand and Joshua McCarey hand props about and re-set the stage with the economical impersonality of puppeteers. The video segment that opens the show, with a voice-over graphically pointing out what no advertiser would like anyone to know, is an advertisement in itself of chucking your television-set into the Charles, in self-defense.

The talk-back, though the cast stands ready to question and to opine and to prompt, may fall a little flat, as it did the night I was there. The discussers seated onstage apparently hoped for much more general comments than they got, but the show seemed only to reinforce the thinking of the upward-middle intellectual liberals --- most of whom were nearly twice the age of the audience Company One hopes to attract --- who come to such productions and stay to talk after. Someone mentioned that the 1999 original production made an allusion to the Columbine Massacre inevitable, while a connection between kiddie gun-games and what is going on today in Baghdad had to be pried out of everyone's minds. The thesis that militant political theater intends to change minds and make people think couldn't be demonstrated, since apparently everyone already agreed with the thesis of this play before they saw it.

Individual experience, of course, may vary. Nonetheless, the company, and this production, are well worth experiencing.


"Truth & Beauty" (20 March - 12 April)
Company One
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTONMA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide