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February 23, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 08
 
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Macha Monkey mangles play
Macha Monkey mangles play
by Jacob Clark - SGN A&E Writer

The eerie pre-show effects for the regional premiere of Sheila Callaghan's We Are Not These Hands, are well done. Eleven computer monitors (four actually work) are stacked upstage to look like the detritus of some collapsed or failed nation state, and are accompanied by fragments of the noise of postmodern life.

Unfortunately, the play doesn't live up to the pre-show. Perhaps if the repetitious scenes were edited, the play might feel more immediate. Perhaps if the actors were younger, the play would be more dangerous, as it tells the story of an affair between a fifteen year-old girl and a middle-aged man. But, director Joy Brooke Fairfield has apparently done nothing to streamline the script, and has directed the miscast actors to substitute nervous energy for motive.

The three actors (Amy Conant, Tinka Jonakova and Mark Fullerton) try to mug their way through what seems like two very long acts. The result is not credible or believable. Ever aware that the actors are "acting", the audience tries to laugh at the unfunny punch lines, but these charity chuckles diminish as the play drags on, leaving the actors to pause for laughs which never happen. The consequence of Fairfield's direction is a play that doesn't move, that provides no catharsis or opportunity to find an emotional commonality with it, that ends up being a big "So what?" of a show.

The script doesn't commit itself to a specific place, although the press release claims the author drew her inspiration from China, and the number of "illicit" cyber cafes which exist there. The women's roles (named Moth and Belly) are written in an annoying pidgin English that doesn't work, that has more in common with a three year-old child than with English as a second language.

After blowing up their school, these mischievous teens eventually blow up a cyber café. The age of the male (named Leather) is not given, but is played as a fifty-something geek. This can all be taken allegorically, with Leather representing the USA and Moth and Belly representing a third-world nation messed up by its involvement with the ugly Americans. But without any specificity in the text or the acting, the symbolism of the piece doesn't matter.

Macha Monkey has co-produced the play with Theatre Off Jackson in the I.D. I can't help wondering how much better it would play if cast with teen-aged Asian actors. Then again, given Fairfield's frantic direction, it wouldn't make much difference.

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