Thursday, July 19, 2007

PLAY: "Surface to Air"

I'm hesitant to say bad things about Surface to Air: it's the first theatrical production to grace the renovated Symphony Space. However, if their future selections are as bad as David Epstein's charmless family drama, there's little to be lost in this warning. Surface and air is all you'll find in this shamelessly exploitative play about Vietnam (i.e., letting go of the past). The plot idles as often as the ghost of the play, Rob (Mark J. Sullivan), a sullen monologist who orates every so often from a dim spotlight cast over the stage left patio. The rest of the time, he just stands there, nodding off, although who could blame him, considering how blandly James Naughton directs the rest of the cast.

Princess (Lois Smith) is a germaphobe whose spirit died when Rob crashed and went missing, thirty years ago. So it makes perfect sense for her to smear herself in Rob's ashes: well, perfect sense considering all the hard work Epstein and Naughton go through to establish her fear of people and things. After all, she sprays not just the table, but the rag she wipes it with, and then the trashcan she throws it into. It's all so artfully done. Of course Hank, Princess's husband, has it out with his children, Terri and Eddie, over the meaning of honor: why else would you reunite them? Marisa Echeverria, who plays Eddie's new, Hispanic wife, is the only spot of color here, and the play she's in has nothing to do with Vietnam. There are a few good spots between Cady Huffman (as a bossy studio executive) and Bruce Altman (as a docile documentarian), but these scenes only re-enforce how unnecessary the intrusion of Vietnam is into this play. Politics may be dramatic, but just talking about politics, without any stakes or emotional investment at all? That's worthless.

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