Wednesday, August 13, 2008

For Reasons Unknown (Barrow Street Theatre)

BOTTOM LINE: Bathroom humor is funny because it is a taboo subject about a universal experience. It's rarely discussed with mixed company...maybe there is a reason for that.

For Reasons Unknown felt like a great idea for a ten minute sketch that was stretched a little past the breaking point into a ninety minute play. What had the potential to be a dirty, unusual and funny little play about poo - yes, I mean excrement - certainly a topic not frequently investigated on stage, sadly went nowhere terribly dirty, unusual, or funny. And it took a long time to not go there.

That is not to say the experience is totally void of entertainment value. The first ten minutes are quite funny. The two lead characters, Bradley and Julie (Jeff Long and Andi Teran, also real life best friends and co-playwrights), are both gifted physical comedians who give energetic performances that includes a fantastically choreographed dance number the folks in Chicago would be proud to call their own. And the supporting cast is also more than 100% capable and committed.

The central problem here is that the initial crisis (Dude, who poo'd on my couch?) does not lead to any sort of realistic conflict. I was not clear what anyone seemed to want or need, and none of the characters were terribly sympathetic so I was left sitting there with nothing to care about and no one to root for. Add to that the fact that the play takes all sorts of random detours (a neighbor with M.S.; a monologue about pigeons; a re-enactment of a pickup at a gay bar the night before), has a slew of inside jokes that friends of the playwrights got but that left me scratching my head, and an ending that offers no resolution or any sense that the last ninety minutes had any sort of impact on anyone. What you are left with is an unfocused construct inside of which talented performers get to spread their wings but never really take flight.

Perhaps with some re-writes this could be a viable play. And I certainly look forward to seeing Jeff and Andi in something that will better showcase their obvious and considerable comedic talents. Then again, maybe its just me. The rest of the audience was quite vociferous with their enjoyment of the show, some of whom were compelled to their feet at curtain call. I just can’t get that excited about someone else’s poo.

For Reasons Unknown plays at the Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St. at 7th Ave. Show times: Thursday, August 14th at 10pm; Monday, August 18th at 7:30pm; Thursday, August 21st at 2pm; Sunday, August 24th at 2:15pm. For more info visit or

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