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A CurtainUp Review

Drummer Wanted (Philadelphia Fringe 2003)
By Kathryn Osenlund

New to Philadelphia, but already award-winning in NYC, Drummer Wanted ) is in the spotlight at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. (See NYC review).

The first thing you notice, after the flat, brightly lit set, is the flat delivery. It's reminiscent of the work of a painter who, in denying perspective, deliberately makes the surface of his painting read flat. A mother and son are caught in a no-exit, endgame, three sisters kind of contained world. The son (Pete Simpson) has suffered a motorcycle accident and is living with his mother (Ellen LeCompte), who is taking care of him. They play musical instruments separately but sometimes at the same time. They sing karaoke past each other, and the story, buried in the play, surfaces through intimations which must be pieced together.

Topics in their lives get worked over, including both pertinent dreams and issues that have gone cold. The son appears to have been offered a chance to pick up his drumming career again, but declines. The mother hopes the son will move out and also asks him to continue to stay and let her take care of him as she did when he was little. The son, after awhile, receives a monetary settlement, which could be his ticket out, but he and his mother are caught between stay and go in a set without windows or doors.

Playwright/director Maxwell's uses a theatrical mode of language which separates words from affect and action, like an egg separator separates the yolk from the white. Words alone are left to point at what's behind them. The mother and son's interactions play as parts of long ago established rituals, representations of conversations distilled over time--displaced, dislocated and estranged.

Paradoxically as subjectivity gives way to an abstract, crystalized idea of character, the very relinquishing of individuality seems to make the characters more easily identified with than sentimental acting might have accomplished. The actors are skilled at handling the anti-naturalistic style.

Undeniably theatrical, the play leaves the audience to interpret and supply meaning. The story is obvious, yet something is happening and it's hard to put your finger on it, which makes Drummer Wanted intriguing.

Drummer Wanted
Written and Directed by Richard Maxwell
Cast: Ellen LeCompte, Pete Simpson
Set Design: Angela Moore

Lighting Design: Michael Schmelling
Songs: Richard Maxwell
Costume Design: Tory Vasquez
The Arden Theatre, 2nd Street Running time 1 hr, no intermission 8/29- 8/31 only. Fringe Festival
Reviewed by Kathryn Osenlund based on 08/29 performance

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