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A CurtainUp DC Review
Andromeda Shack

by Dolores Whiskeyman

At the heart of Andromeda Shack, David Bucci's noisy new play, lies an idea that deserves some attention: the erosive effect of technology on our souls.

But in this so-called "anarcho-comedy," the ideas never quite coalesce into a story that commands attention. Instead, Bucci delivers an array of stereotypes and asks that we accept their flounderings as plot: frustrated artist meets wacko loner meets zoned-out anarchist meets hyperactive boss meets jerk-off cop.

It's the kind of fare one comes to expect from Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, the theatre that made its reputation on hyperactive comedies. But here, the humor is forced, the acting is strained, and the point of it all is lost.

Andromeda Shack concerns itself with Patsy, a talentless performance artist (Rhea Seehorn) who labors by day in an electronics store known as Electro-Shack. By night she performs as "Andromeda" at the local rave. She's terrible, of course, but she is blissfully unaware of her shortcomings as a performer. Patsy works for an intensely ambitious but equally ineffectual boss named Elinor (Holly Twyford at her most shrill) who spend most of the play obsessing over a longed-for promotion that never comes.

Meanwhile, the Electro-Shack chain is the object of a series of bombings by an anarchist group. Yet, when Patsy comes to work one day and finds a strange device in the middle of the floor, she is oddly unaffected. Elinor, however, knows exactly what to do: She panics---loudly.

Into this mix come a parade of the predictable oddballs: the leader of the anarchists (Christopher Marlowe Roche), a Unabomber-style social outcast in a hunting cap named HighTech001 (Mark Shanahan), a French performance artist and p.r. man for Electro-Shack (both played by Shanahan) and of course, the cop (Roche again) who holds some appeal for the sexually repressed Elinor.

Ultimately the play builds to a showdown between Patsy and HighTech001. What tries to be social satire devolves into a "Nerd in Love" story, and at points it's almost touching, thanks mostly to Shanahan, who is the most watchable of the cast. Shanahan at least finds some calm center to the characters he plays, in contrast to the constant jumping, twitching and writhing of his fellow cast-members.

Under the direction of Lou Jacob, this is a hugely self-conscious production, made all the more so by the overbearing (and confining) set by David P. Gordon. The lovingly detailed rendition of a Radio Shack store creates a box that forces a repetitive pattern of traffic. There's nowhere for the actors to go, so the same stage pictures emerge. Over and over again.

By now, anyone familiar with Woolly's taste in plays is accustomed to its over-the-top approach to comedy. But lately, it seems, these kinds of plays are every bit as formulaic as the stodgiest well-made drama. Always, always there is a group of odd characters in push-the-envelope situations. In the hands of an able writer, like Nicky Silver, the formula pays off. Silver, at least, is hysterically funny. Bucci is not.

More's the pity that Woolly Mammoth, the home of some of Washington's sharpest theatrical talents, chose to devote so much time and attention to this project. Apparently, Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz pledged his support on the basis of a treatment only -- always a risky notion. Through a series of readings and workshops, Bucci brought his play to fruition and Shalwitz made good on his pledge to produce it. Thank God for such gutsy producers, but in theatre -- as in high-stakes poker -- sometimes you just don't have the luck.

This is one of those times.

By David Bucci
With Rhea Seehorn, Mark Shanahan, Holly Twyford, Christopher Marlowe Roche.
Set by David P. Gordon
Lighting by Lisa L. Ogonowski
Sound by Mark Anduss
Costumes by Brenda Plakans
Video Design by Dan Ribaudo
Fight Choreography by John Gurski
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, in residence at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Opened March 19, 2001 closes April 22, 2001.
Reviewed March 29, 2001, by Dolores Whiskeyman, based on a March 28 performance.


2001 CD-ROM Deluxe

The Broadway Theatre Archive

(C)Copyright 2001, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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