Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Coming Home (Theatre Row)

Coming Home is a one-act festival produced by Living Image Arts. Three separate plays make up the evening; all are distinct but all have to do with the general theme of "coming home." The tag-line of the production is "Have you ever come back to a home you don't remember?" and this is universal theme behind all three scripts.

I think that with one-act festivals, you're either a lover or a hater with little ambivalence. If you're a lover, you probably really enjoy watching new work get a chance to stretch its legs for the first or second time; you probably also like the idea that if you get sick of a particular play you don't have long to wait until the next one. If you're a hater though, you might take issue with the fact that one act is rarely enough time to develop characters and plot into a story that feels real; it can be hard to get past the exposition stage of a story in such a short amount of time.

In Coming Home, two of the plays, Sparrow and Last Call on Bourbon Street delve into very meaty subject matter and cram a whole lot of story and drama into a short time. If you are a hater, you might be averse to these story-telling methods, feeling hungry for more time to experience what's happening on stage. Sparrow is the reunion story of two ex-best friends who grew up in the Philippines. Both friends planned to move to New York to be artists, but only one achieved the goal and as a result, she seriously resents the friend who stayed in the Philippines. The old friends reconnect after some reminiscing and realizing of the current life-threatening problems that plague one of them.

Last Call on Bourbon Street
is the story of a group of friends in New Orleans shortly after Katrina, hanging out in their neighborhood bar. They are fighting to regain their old lives back and face new problems as the insurance adjuster visits the bar to assess the damage as well as the owner's claim. Though the insurance man is inherently the bad guy, through the friend's stories of the heart of the city, he softens and begins to understand that the turmoil that went on after Katrina was indeed horrific and devastating.

The other play of the evening, Counting, does a good job of keeping the plot within the parameters of just one scene. It takes place in the holding cell of a prison as one woman prepares to get out and another prepares to begin her sentence. The woman getting out shows the newbie how to get through her time, by using numbers and math to maintain a distinction between days and moments. Through careful counting and substituting, numbers provide a relatively meaningful way to keep track of days and stay grounded while waiting for release.

Check out Coming Home if you like one-act festivals or the prospect of seeing new work that delves deep into subject matter and makes you think. The performances are overall pretty strong and the subject matter is thought-provoking enough to make for an interesting night of theatre.

(Coming Home plays at The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street until June 14th, Tuesday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Saturday, June 14th has both 3pm and 8pm performances. Tickets are $18 and are available at ticketcentral.com or by calling 212.279.4200.)

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