WINDY CITY TIMES
||Theater: The Exploded View
by MARY SHEN BARNIDGE
This article shared 2819 times since Wed Apr 7, 2004
Playwright: Erik Ramsey
At: SmashTheatre at the Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph St.
Phone: (773) 454-5112; $15
Runs through: May 2
An 'exploded view' is a picture of an object, rendered in three dimensions with its various parts separated, often seen in assembly diagrams. The title of Erik Ramsey's play also refers to a household gas explosion, precipitated by the residents on site—in this case, three men, two of whom are seriously injured—being so absorbed in their own problems that they ignore the warning signs. The play views them in the moments before the disaster, and their respective consorts in the moments after.
Since we listen more closely to what the characters say than they do to one another, all this is apparent in the first 30 minutes. But Ramsey's concept mandates our becoming intimately acquainted with four of these unlucky people. Thom is a freelance Clown devoted to his chosen craft despite the qualms of Honey, his law-student girlfriend. Bob is an industrial artist displaced by computer technology, now reduced to earning a living as an appliance repairman—an occupation affecting the balance of power in his marriage to status-conscious Grace.
Despite Ramsey parceling out the revelations in nonlinear fragments, two hours would still be a protracted introduction even if we gave a damn about these shallow nobodies mired down in myopic mediocrity. Ironically, Honey's eccentric grandfather, who phones for the repairman, leaves the stove on with the pilot unlit, keeps Thom and Bob waiting for him to finish in the bathroom, and who emerges unscathed from the blast—in short, the person who initiates most of the plot's significant action—is at no time seen or heard, but is instead discussed by those powerless to assume control of their own fates.
Director David Castro and his cast strive mightily to invoke empathy for their lackluster personae, but neither Ramsey's promise of a happier future or SmashTheatre's talent for rescuing flawed scripts can elevate this academic exercise to the level of tragedy. Anthony Gaudio's minimal set and David Cerda's 1980s-pop score provide a modicum of distraction, but only a—well, return to the drawing board could resuscitate a script as emotionally unengaging as its metaphor.
This article shared 2819 times since Wed Apr 7, 2004
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