Theater Review: Theater’s power goes underground
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | May 26,2013
Jim Lowe / Staff photo
Nicholas Hecht is the mysterious Cooper in Tom Blachly’s new play, “The Performer,” at Goddard College’s Haybarn Theatre through June 2.
PLAINFIELD — “The Performer,” Tom Blachly’s new play, will seem to some a commentary on the plight of the homeless, while it more directly addresses the power of theater. Those same folks are likely see it as a serious drama while, in fact, it is also a delicious comedy of human nature.
“The Performer,” intriguing and entertaining, opened at Goddard College’s Haybarn Theatre, sponsored by Echo Valley Community Arts and directed by the playwright. On Friday, the mostly community actors delivered a performance that proved most convincing and entertaining.
The action takes place entirely in a New York subway station where Jazz gets what money he can by playing guitar and singing. Joining him is his 21-year-old girlfriend Caitlyn, the 10-year-old runaway Jacko, and the bag lady Maureen. Occasionally a streetwalker, Stella, joins them to commiserate.
Jazz and his buddies can barely scrape up enough to eat when they meet a mysterious stranger who asks to perform with them. Jazz objects — after all, he’s king of the roost. When the stranger, named Cooper, or Coop, insists that he won’t share in the money, Jazz is perplexed — but is forced to give in.
When Cooper joins them with his “rain stick” and chants, the usually blasé subway passengers stop dead in their tracks — and give money.
But, as soon as Jazz realizes that his guitar case is full of cash, Coop disappears. As this strange man of the theater appears and disappears, the characters of these street people come to the fore — as does their realization of who and what they are.
What makes Blachly’s play intriguing is the authenticity of its characters as people, as well as the psychological power of theater. What makes it comedy is the inauthenticity of its depiction of street life. These folks could be living in downtown Montpelier (except, perhaps, for the hooker) — but the story is great fun.
This premier production, despite almost chronic overacting, is particularly well cast. Marcus Becherer’s Jazz, with a Boston accent, felt entirely authentic, full of adolescent angst and bravado. Artist Nicholas Hecht was cast pretty much as himself, Cooper, mysterious and penetratingly deep — and with just a touch of wit.
Lauren Patterson displayed plenty of teen angst as well as wry wit as Caitlyn, while Adam Blachly (sporting an unfortunate wig) was entirely convincing as young Jacko, particularly in playing Shakespeare with Coop. Jill Pralle gave extra dimension to Stella, who feels strangely threatened by Coop’s honesty (and his Stanley Kowalski from “A Streetcar Named Desire”).
Susannah Blachly’s portrayal of Maureen yielded perhaps the most touching moment in the play, in a monologue reflecting on her unhappy past. Joe Lee did fine with the cameo role of Dave, the subway guard, while 10 others paraded through the set in various guises — some of them pretty funny, a la New York — as subway patrons.
Blachly’s “The Performer,” with its fine cast, proved most entertaining. With more character development, it could be powerful.
Echo Valley Community Arts
Echo Valley Community Arts presents the premiere of “The Performer,” a comedy by Tom Blachly, at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays May 23-26 and May 30-June 2, at Goddard College’s Haybarn Theatre, 123 Pitkin Road in Plainfield. Tickets are $15, $12 for students and seniors; call 802-426-3955, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.