“I was at your daughter’s wake,” a customer tells a bartender dozens of times in this fascinating and unusual play (through Saturday), each time reading it a little differently, maybe cutting it off in the middle, eliciting a variety of responses—about the food, the flowers, the nature of verbal communication—that approach the infinite, from fuck off to full engagement.
For this circular tête-à-tête, the Bushwick Starr has been re-created as a dive, its usual risers/proscenium setup replaced by tables for the audience around the edges of a showspace bar; they’ll drink before the show (and during, if you were smart and bought two!) from the same taps and bottles the actors will. Free food is served. (The Times reported it was vegetarian, but it changes: on our visit, it was pork and mac n’ cheese.) It comes to feel like a buffet at an Irish wake, that wake the bar patron keeps talking about. Was he her boyfriend? Did she die in an automobile accident? Was she drunk? Or just not wearing her glasses? Did she only have one arm?
All of these might be true; it’s almost like seeing a glimpse of the multiverse theory played out before you, the actors resetting, seeing where it takes them this time. Playwright William Burke, one of Mac Wellman’s Brooklyn College MFA graduates, gets to something moving about the way people try and try to get out what they mean (and not just create more “noise pollution”) but fail, exposing the meaninglessness of our words, the emptiness of conversation, and the hollowness of ritual—from bartender-customer banter to funeral ceremony.
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