Thursday, October 15, 2009


Photo/Chantel Lucier

If you were to black out for the duration of the first act of J. Anthony Roman's Blackouts, you wouldn't have a missed a thing. Well, nothing you hadn't seen or heard before: now that Eddy (Max Woertendyke) has a child by his wife, Sarah (Jamie Klassel), he's in do-or-die mode, trying to sell his artwork. When he fails at this, he turns to increasing amounts of coke, unable to take the advice of his best friend and neighbor Phil (Zachary Fletcher) on account of how miserable Phil looks, being "responsible" for his needy wife, Janine (Lisa Snyder). The actors have some life to them, but the script is lifeless, no matter how desperately they fling themselves at it.

It's as if they realize how superfluous the first act is, considering that the second act--which takes place in the same Hell's Kitchen apartment, 26 years later--quickly reminds us of the past, being as the focus has shifted to Eddy's son, James (Woertendyke) and James's wife, Evy (Snyder). And knowing that doesn't make the second act any better: 1977 and 2003 are the two years in which there were major citywide blackouts, so it's clear that Roman is attempting to set up some parallels, but those echoes are no less hollow in the second act than in the first. There is nothing solid for them to bounce against, only generalities. (Nothing solid in the play, that is: Jen Price Fick's realistic set is terrific, with so much functional space on an otherwise cramped stage that you'd want her to design anyone's New York studio, and Shane Rettig's sound design perfectly captures the angry, yet comforting, bustle of the city.)

James grew up without a father, but that's not stopping him--now with a son of his own--from walking out on his cheating, alcoholic wife, nor does it make it any harder for him to make this decision; given that, what then is the point of either act? It doesn't help, either, that the "friends" are again relegated to comic relief, with Corbin (Fletcher) and his girlfriend Cyan (Klassel) showing up long enough for us to learn that Corbin can't commit--and absolutely nothing else.

Toward the very end of the play, Roman attempts to tie things back to Eddy's best piece of art, a painting that crosses out the word "need" in order to say "All You Have Is Love." It's a good message, but it's drowned out by the other point he makes: "The good life ends as soon as reality becomes bigger than your imagination." By sticking to real-world stereotypes of cocaine, alcohol, and blackouts, there's too little imagination left to make anything good.

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