Let the Audience Decide How Much Is Enough

11/17/2011 8:00 AM |

How Much Is Enough? Our Values in Question
Written by Kirk Lynn
Directed by Melanie Joseph

"Is it scripted?" You can't help but wonder. You're sitting four to eight per table scattered around the expansive St. Ann's Warehouse space, microphones and projectors hang overhead pointed at every angle. The lights are subdued and drop curtains around the periphery let off a turquoise glow. You're at the theater. You've come for participatory performance art, but the stage-less layout feels more like quiz night at the pub (albeit with less alcohol). The first member of the audience has been put on the spot, called upon to answer a few questions, but some of her answers just seem too good to be spontaneous—too insightful, too honest, too pithy and poignant. "What's one thing it takes to have a good birth?" asks Carlo (Noel Joseph Allain), one of three character-moderators, a prospective father. "Love," she says unhesitatingly, "commitment, wannabe…" Carlo asks, "Sorry what was that?" "Wannabe," she says, "like wannahave." "Ah." It's unscripted, you learn, because there are certain brilliant idiosyncrasies few playwrights could have captured, and you might be the next one up.

How Much Is Enough? (through November 27), the latest work from the acclaimed and adventurous Foundry Theatre, is sure to engross even those with the greatest aversion to participatory theater. The three actors pose some of the simplest yet most thought-provoking questions about those values we carry from youth till death. Meanwhile, a "Googler" (Mohammad Yousuf) scours the search engine for added insight to project onto two suspended screens. Money, time (which apparently is the most frequently used noun in the English language), labor and possessions are investigated while the Zuccotti Park tumult just across the river inevitably weighs heavily on the participants' collective conscience. Likely as a result of the sample size—not homogenous exactly, but a typical experimental theater-going set—the mood fostered is unsurprisingly utopian. The night I attended there was no real dispute or debate, and the entire plot-less performance was largely free of conflict. Luckily, the suspense provided by the prompt "in your own words" proves sufficient to sustain tremendous dramatic interest. Kirk Lynn's deftly crafted script, which loosely follows the trajectory of a human life, avoids veering into limitless, unstructured and incoherent exploration, allowing for just enough experimentation. Although, who's to say how much is enough?

(Photo: Richard Termine)