Clementine and the Cyber Ducks is an odd mash-up--invigoratingly fresh while at the same time mired down in the constraints of Henry Randall Waite's 1887 song, "Oh My Darling Clementine," and the flair of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater. Krista Knight's twist merges the 1849 gold rush with the entrepreneurial tech bubble of the 1990s, which is suspensefully entertaining, but only if you can suspend your disbelief in a trio of sinisterly capitalistic ducks (Patrick Kovach-Long, Siobhan Doherty, and Jeff Seal).
Jess Chayes's electric direction keeps things swimming along--literally, there's a stream of blue bulbs and yellow wires--but the play, like Clementine, drowns in a sea of speculation. As innocent Clementine, Emily Perkins is a nerd-charmer (think of a tame Summer Glau), but her relationships don't develop, and so the larger allegories are left unresolved. Suffice to say that her sister, Regina (Cara Francis) and her boyfriend, Brian (Edward Bauer), literally jump into bed together, while her father, Clive (Ben Beckley), provides some solid Western authenticity as he sits in a wheelchair, pining away.
Brian is depicted as an earnest idiot who somehow manages to invent a Google-like search engine; considering that Knight and Chayes are earnest and not idiotic, they'd do well to follow the steps that lead to their character's success. (And I don't mean that they should steal an 1849 silver tea set from their girlfriend's father to raise the capital.) It's time to get more specific about what they want to do, and cut down on vague, de riguere downtown style. (Dance breaks? Really?) It's cute that Nick Benacerraf's set looks like a computer rendering of the dusty 1800s (look at the angular segments of his tree trunks), just as it it's cute that Brian's laptop looks as if it's made out of wood, but these concepts aren't pinging any emotional hits yet.
Monday, May 11, 2009