This past season I feasted on a fairly steady diet of Broadway and off-Broadway plays that were celebrity-driven vehicles. Famous actors do a play for 10 weeks to burnish their credibility as artists. Sometimes it works (Scarlett Johansson). Other times, not so much (Catherine Zeta-Jones). I feel like I’d gotten away from the small, black box theaters. These are intimate productions of not-always popular material with actors in training. It’s where the rubber meets the road for actors and audience.
The Potomac Theater Project has taken up its summer residence at The Atlantic Theater Stage 2 in Chelsea. My mind was turning to mush by too much easy, popular fair, so I thought it was time to shut up, take my medicine and suffer through some avant garde theater.
I saw Plevna: Meditations on Hatred and Gary the Thief by British playwright Howard Barker. I knew what I was getting myself into. The two brief one-acts, each with a single actor, are called “theatrical poems.” In the program, Barker describes his work as “‘Theatre [sic] of Catastrophe’ in which no attempt is made to satisfy any demand for clarity.”
This stuff is hard to absorb. The dialog was Joycean in its complexity and my understanding (and attention) would fade in and out. But it was a Herculean effort by the actors and I can always appreciate that. The audience included an acting class and the students seemed impressed.