If you sometimes question the motives and sincerity of people who jump from cause to cause with the same ease that most of us select an entrée in a neighborhood coffee shop, then my suggestion is you dash over to see Nicky Silver’s new play The Altruists at the Vineyard Theater.
Who are these folks with lives that seem to revolve around the ‘protest’ of the moment? And who pays for their upkeep? Nicky Silver, in a decidedly unpolitically correct position, takes them on, in all their hypocritical and self-centered pomposity. They love the excitement of the protest game. As far as the cause - if it’s Saturday, it must be save the whales - no that was last week, this week it’s anti fur coats . . . maybe? In other words, the professional protester in The Altruists can’t even remember what they’re protesting, they just want to be part of the action. Of course, when it’s time to act on their principles, if it’s to their detriment, forget about it.
Director David Warren does a wonderful job of staging this complicated plot of three related tales that eventually become one story. The action happens simultaneously in freeze frames on different parts of the stage. The plot moves from room to room at a pace that even the easily bored will heed. Stan and I could not locate a snore or nodding head anywhere in the theater.
It is quite possible that Nicky Silver has created the coldest bunch of self-centered characters ever to make it to the stage. They really seem more like caricatures in an ‘adult’ cartoon. Not one of them feels more than a moment of concern for family, lovers or friends. Each lives for the moment and not beyond. They have truly accepted the philosophy “I love the world, it’s people I can’t stand.”
Veanne Cox, the group’s source of funding, is her usual terrific self as a non-stop fast-talking thirty-something soap opera actress who is afraid for her job, her lifestyle and her sex life with leech/activist Sam Robards. Joey Slotnick gives a wonderful performance as her brother, the sensitive “do-gooder” who has sacrificed financial rewards to be a case-worker and professional protester. He has confused fabulous sex for true love and is so dense he believes that he has fallen in love with a handsome male prostitute played delectably by Eddie Cahill. Kali Rocha, with fist clenched, plays a radical lesbian who much prefers men. She’s very funny in her desperate attempts to remember what, where and when she is protesting, while writing a goodbye note to her lesbian lover. Then of course there’s the stress of what to pack. She just can’t quite remember who stole what.
You might not agree with the play’s provocative point of view. You might wish the personalities on stage had a little more depth of character or any character at all. You might even wish that you didn’t see a little of yourself in some of their less than noble attitudes. However, chances are when you leave the theater, the play won’t leave your thoughts for quite a while.