Regional Reviews: San Francisco
San Jose Repertory Presents A Fearful Humpty Dumpty
Also see Richard's review of The Big Bang
The San Jose Repertory Company is presenting the west coast premiere of Eric Bogosian's psychological thriller Humpty Dumpty. This is the second professional production of this playwright's incendiary drama. The two act play had its world premiere at the McCarter Theatre Center in New Jersey last year. Mr. Bogosian, who has written primarily for his solo performances, such as Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll and Drinking in America, now presents a thought provoking five person play.
(l. to r.) Elizabeth Hanly Rice, Saxon Palmer, Andy Murray,
Amy Brewczynski and Louis Lotorto
Humpty Dumpty is about four present day repulsive ego-driven persons whose lives are centered around cell phones and laptops in the topsy turvy world of the culture industry. They want to get away from their high pressure jobs and spend a quiet week of eating gourmet food, smoking good pot, drinking good booze and relaxing with their mates in a renovated posh barn in upstate New York.
Max (Saxon Palmer) is a notable short story writer who is waiting to hear about a big movie deal. His wife Nichole (Elizabeth Hanly Rice) is an editor at a major publishing house. Both of these are upscale New Yorkers and are used to the "good life." Joining them are Troy (Louis Lotorto), an obnoxious screenwriter, and his actress girlfriend Spoon (Amy Brewczynski). Spoon explains that her hippie parents named her "Spoonful." These are power hungry and very unlikable folks; they, like Humpty Dumpty, are going to have a great fall, and I doubt that, once the play is over, all the king's horses and all the king's men will put these couples back together again.
Things are going fine in this house of luxury when suddenly and disastrously, the electricity goes out. Coincidentally, the batteries in their cell phones go dead. The yuppies now have to face living without refrigeration, Internet connections and cable TV, which is a catastrophe for them. Entering into this convoluted plot is Nat (Andy Murray), the local handyman, whose seems to be an enigmatic person. He tells them that the water system and the pumps at the gas stations are not working. Also, the National Guard is patrolling the area. The couples become paranoid when they hear barking and howling of dogs and gun shots coming from outside the house. They fear an anthrax outbreak or a terrorist attack on the country.
Hours turn into days and still no power in the area. What has happened to the rest of the country? Is it safe to leave the house?? The group becomes very afraid to venture too far from the house. Nat is their only source of outside information since he continues to deliver eggs and water to the house. The foursome's personalities crack under the strain, and by the beginning of the second act, everyone is growling at each other. Nichole becomes high strung, Max becomes more obsessively repressed and Troy becomes aggressive. Spoon, who smokes a lot of pot, seems to be in another world.
New York actor Saxon Palmer (Design for Living, Three Sisters) is excellent as the compulsive Max. He expertly displays the man as he goes more and more into himself. Elizabeth Hanly Rice, another New York actor (The Herbal Bed, Collected Stories), is particularly good when she is near the end of her rope, and she has a great monologue about the perfection of an egg's structure - before dropping the egg on the floor. Louis Lotorto as Troy tends to talk much too fast, especially in the opening of the production. His speech is almost machine gun-like, and it is easy to become irritated at his character. However, Lotorto does accomplish his purpose in making the character unlikable. Amy Brewczynski successfully portrays a blonde Hollywood starlet bimbo who displays a bit of intelligence between bouts of smoking the weed. Andy Murray looks and acts like an unfathomable handyman as he lumbers in and out of the set.
One of the stars of the production is the set by Douglas Rogers. It is a beautifully designed two story set with a river stone fireplace in the center along with a sunken conversation pit. This looks like a very posh mountain retreat home for the rich and the famous. The lighting by Lap Chi Chu is remarkable even when the light go out in the home. His lighting in last scene is truly amazing. John McCluggage's direction is on the mark and he has made the production a very interesting psychological thriller. This is, as playwright Bogosian says, "four distinct individuals getting everything stripped away and how they each react in their own way."
Humpty Dumpty plays through April 20 at the San Jose Repertory Theatre, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. For tickets call 408-367-7255 or visit www.sjrep.com. There next production is Neil Simon's The Odd Couple which opens on May 22nd.