Written by Eliza Clark
Directed by Trip Cullman
The beautifully named set designer Andromache Chalfant
is the daughter of a great theater actress, Kathleen Chalfant
, and she has designed sets for plays all around the country; one of the best in her field, Chalfant has really outdone herself with her set for Edgewise
, a new play by Eliza Clark
, directed by Trip Cullman (through December 4). Clark's play is set in a New Jersey fast food burger restaurant, and Chalfant has installed a deep fat fryer, a sink with running water, a grill (a burger is made during the play), a refrigerator stocked with soda, a countertop, and a backroom filled with junk; there are even bits of burger bun on the floor and a tiny mousetrap. Technically, the set is impressive on its own terms, but it's filled with thoughtful, evocative detail, too, and it's easy to get lost in that detail because, unfortunately, Clark hasn't written a play that's worth being performed on this or any set. Edgewise
takes place in a paranoid future where America is a war zone of sorts, and I suppose the people
who insisted on putting this play on thought it was somehow "relevant" to our times; that's what many smart theater people tell themselves about what they're doing and why they're doing it, though up-to-the-minute relevance, political or otherwise, rarely enters into a truly successful aesthetic experience, even if it is helpful as a hook for advertising and press interviews. Clark uses paranoia and outbursts of physical violence to give her inert drama some flash, but this fashionable "relevance" only points up just how confused and flimsy her play is.
In the first scenes, Clark writes flatly derivative macho "guy talk" for her male lead, Ruckus (Philip Ettinger) as he taunts his passive friend Marco (Tobias Segal), and she sets up a triangle between the two boys and their co-worker Emma (Aja Naomi King) that limps along while the three teenagers deal with two men who might qualify as "the enemy." Cullman has all of his very young, just-out-of-drama-school actors playing at one monotonous pitch of intensity, and this is especially painful when each of them has to go into a long monologue about their past. The digressive pointlessness of the writing in these monologues might have been endurable if the actors were virtuosos who could play several different things at once, but with these green young performers, the intermission-less play starts to seem unendurable. No expense has been spared on this production, and there are several explosions that rock the space and fancy lighting effects that highlight plaster falling from the ceiling; it's unkind to the actors and to Clark herself to put on such a big-scaled production of a play this feeble. Clark has been to Hollywood to write for the just-canceled AMC show Rubicon
, and after suffering through this play, I can only hope that she goes back out there for a while and learns something about structure and self-editing.
(photo credit: Carol Rosegg)
Flipping Burgers on Edgewise's Fast Food Set
Photos from the set of Eliza Clark's new play about three friends working a burger joint in a war zone.
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