Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Back to Babylon
The Lake Worth Playhouse presents a limited engagement of the one act play Back to Babylon, written, performed and directed by Gregg Tomé. Gregg Tomé has performed Back to Babylon across the country, from the New York City Fringe Festival to the First Stage in Los Angeles. The show was scheduled to open at the Cuillo Centre for the Arts in West Palm Beach, but was left in need of a new venue when the Cuillo Centre announced that it would not be opening this summer. Back to Babylon is scheduled to open Off-Broadway at The Players Theatre on July 10, 2009 (for more information, visit www.greggtome.com).
The one-man show is set in the seaside town of Babylon, Long Island in 1987. Donny, who is a Rikers Island Corrections officer, has stopped by a local bar after work to have a drink on the eve of his 10-year high school reunion. Gregg Tomé portrays a series of nine characters loosely based on real-life Babylon townsfolk with whom he grew up in the 1970s. The characters each have just enough time to establish their view of the world and their relationship to one another as the story unfolds in a remembrance of the past fueled by the impending reunion. Babylon, like every town, has its own history of colorful characters and events that forever bind people together in shared experiences, regardless of how many miles and years lie between them and home.
Some of the characters are more interesting than others, but each audience members should be able to find at least one with whom they personally identify. The characters spend so much time smoking marijuana, that one would guess these are actual adolescent experiences shared by the author long before "just say no" was ever conceived. Both the story and the performance of Back to Babylon manage to be good but not great, perhaps because there are no great highs and lows.
Tomé effectively changes his facial expressions and mannerisms from character to character. The motivational speech delivered by the high school coach is probably the strongest comedic monologue in its ability to stand alone. His portrayal of brilliant stoner Billy-B and jock/mechanic Vito both feel quite genuine. Other characters are less successful. He is unconvincing in his portrayal of a gay character named Furaha, needs to work on the physicality of age with his character Old Man Hi-Hello, and has problems maintaining a lisp as Nanzo-K'Nanzo. Tomé's transitions between characters are in need of some tweaking with pacing and energy, but his overall acting is solid and the show does have promise.
Back to Babylon appeared at the Lake Worth Playhouse June 19th & 20th, 2009. The theatre is located at 713 Lake Ave. in Lake Worth, FL. The Lake Worth Playhouse is a Resident Community Playhouse in its 56th Season. For information about the theatre and its programs, you may contact them by phone at 561-586-6410 or online at www.lakeworthplayhouse.org.