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Theatre Journal 54.3 (2002) 494-496

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Performance Review



and...and...and. By Chris Dickman. Ensemble Actors' Theatre, Madlab Theatre, Columbus, Ohio. 11 October 2001.

Despite the promise of virtual reality and ever more complex theatre technology, perhaps the most exciting performance I have seen recently was by a young company performing an original script in a cramped, inner-city, ramshackle warehouse. The intimate setting lent the performance immediacy: within a tight space, a small group of people were able to share a unique theatrical experience that could not be recorded or transplanted to a larger theatre without being irrevocably altered. Adding to these conditions was the acting style employed by the company, which was marked as much by a fierce devotion to the power of the shared moment as by any attempt to create a clean, polished performance. I came away from the experience wishing audiences and critics would consider "successful performances" to include small productions that speak directly to their specific audience, defying the current ideal of global appeal.

The play, which was written by one of the actors and workshopped by the ensemble, lent itself well to the space that philosophically mirrored its desolate, late-capitalist setting. And...and...and is an intelligent, [End Page 494] comic dramatization of the angst of a generation rich with potential yet devoid of any worthwhile ends to which that potential can be directed. Reminiscent of John Osborne and the Angry Young Man genre, and...and...and renders into compelling action the confusion and frustration experienced by those bright enough to realize that they have nowhere worthwhile to go, nothing worthwhile to do, and all the time in the world to do it. This existential crisis is physicalized in the production by Joey (Chris Dickman), friend to Marty and Phil, who slowly sinks into his sofa through the course of the performance, while those around him fail to notice any change as they desperately seek meaning in their own lives.

But this production does not easily fit the genre forms into which we might be eager to force it. Although evocative of John Osborne, and...and...and is distinctively a piece written about the world at the turn of the twenty-first century, employing contemporary colloquial language to consider a condition that seems endemic to the generation following GenX. Additionally, the actions of those surrounding Joey follow logical, if desperate, lines of development. In this manner, the play avoids designation as a piece of absurdism even as it evidences signs of Beckett and forwards its own sense of existential futility. And...and...and expresses the feelings of a talented generation that sees the world as so wide open that it is paralyzed with indecision, and nothing seems within its grasp.

The play's spontaneous, witty dialogue renders the work's theoretical issues into palpable, immediate action. Author Chris Dickman accomplishes this by employing a metaphorically rich vocabulary. The philosophical poignancy of the play then comes forth when the characters, absorbed in their own needs, fail to read the metaphorical significance to be found in the appeals made by those around them. At the beginning of the play, Joey feels the darkness surrounding him, but when he tells Marty that he is afraid to go outside, he is reassured by his hung-over friend that "it's not too bad out." The audience laughs at Marty's misapprehension but does not lose sight of the fact that Joey's suffering goes completely unnoticed. The significance of this misapprehension is heightened when Marty, a short while later, seeks similar sympathy from Phil, and the scene of misunderstanding reoccurs. All of the characters seek a [End Page 495] means to fill their lives with purpose and entreat each other for understanding, but they are left unsatisfied.

The most powerful instance of this search and entreaty can be found in Suzy's love for Marty. In order to fill the void that all of the characters feel, Suzy (Laura Gale) grapples with the intimate relationship she has with Marty. Rather than offer any form of satisfaction...


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