Friday, June 25, 2010

Jeannie's Abortion

Eric Bland is a genius. Not the best playwright, but certainly one hell of an observational, poetic, philosophical hipster genius. His rambunctious new show, Jeannie's Abortion, feels a lot like Waking Life--plot is never a pressing concern; the ideas are--and his writing is best summed up by the way his characters describe themselves: as ironic (in the "weird and indifferently extravagant or aloofly quirky" sense) and "Post-" (perhaps the Post-Beat Generation). The play is also neatly balanced between light and charming dialogues ("You ate like all the waffles." "Bullshit." "Bull-fact.") and deep digressive monologues ("The body is like Patrocles was to Achilles.... The mind is like Sex and the City, a friend or a good lover...") If you've ever wanted to hear someone talk about Pedro Almodovar and The Legend of Zelda in the same breath, this is the show for you.

The slice-of-life structure of Jeannine's Abortion (subtitled "A Play in One Trimester") follows the serious Morgan and her too-cute lover, Emily (Morgan Anne Zipf and Emily Perkins); the chill Daniel and his sweetheart, the charmingly lush Lindsey (Daniel Kublick and Lindsey Carter); the unshakable Jeannine (Siobhan Doherty); the cultured Sarah (Sarah Engelke), who is off in China; and the deadpan loner, Jeff (Jeff Lewonczyk). The synopsis, however, may be a bit too on the nose: "They exist with one another, and Jeannine has an abortion." That is, the characters are fun to watch--it's like hanging out at a house party--but the play is exactly what it is: three months in the lives of your peers. It's an exercise in, or a reminder of, normalcy. When the show is on--especially in the scenes with Daniel--you want to grab a drink and join in; when it's off--unfortunately, many of the distant scenes with Sarah--you feel like you've outstayed your welcome.

Thankfully, Hope Cartelli's a very welcoming director, and if anything, she's played up the sweetness of the show, allowing actors (like the aptly named Perkins) to round out their roles. You're bound to like this cast, even when they're idly stuffed into the background of scenes they don't belong in, like a sour and out-of-place dream sequence or an angry, unnecessary flashback of a road trip to the Jersey Shore. It boils down to something Daniel says early in the show--and no, not his cereal-box metaphor for choice, or the lack thereof, though the play could stand to be more active. "I'm not just caffeinated. I'm serious," he says. Which begs the question: what happens when that buzz wears off? For some, Jeannie's Abortion may be too chock full o' ideas.

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