Nov 14 – Add it up.
Verdict: Go see it. Now!
I think this is the best play I’ve seen in a while. It has a delightfully weird story, good actors, creative staging, all wrapped up into a disturbed fun house ride where you are not sure what is coming next. Now how often can you say that, when you see a play or movie these days.
The story follows Mr. Zero, a plodding cog in the accounting department of a nameless store. He’s been in the same job for twenty-five years, a fact that his nagging wife reminds him of continuously. On his 25th anniversary his boss comes to tell him that he is being replaced by a new adding machine. Let’s just say that he doesn’t take it well. From there, the ride begins.
The play was written in 1923 at a time when the classic white American man was a mysogynistic racist, and Mr Zero is no exception. One section of the play demonstrates the horrible racism of this time, and I’d warn audience members who might be sensitive to racial and religious epithets to be prepared for some graphic comments.
I was torn, feeling sympathetic with Mr. Zero and realizing that realizing that he’s an ass (and worse, but I don’t want to give the plot twists away). Mr. Zero wends his way through his circumstances haphazardly. He has moments where he dares to dream, but they don’t last, mostly his own fault.
If you liked the movie Brazil (especially the director’s cut), I think you would like this play. It has a similar feel and look. The set is miminal, but creates in the first half a decrepit art deco landscape. The ensemble creates a mood reminiscent of Metropolis, moving in rhythmic unison. The music supporting the synchronization. I enjoyed the music, a mix of weird electronica, cinematic, with some singing bits now and again. And there was dancing too. How fun is that.
What I liked about this play is that it kept me guessing. I really didn’t know where it was going. It wandered around seemingly randomly, not unlike what was happening to its protagonist. I felt like I was riding on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland, wondering what was going to be coming next. A weird delight around every corner.
I should talk about the acting. I thought everyone was really good. The juicyness starts in the opening scene, when Amy Thone, playing Mrs. Zero begins an impressivly alternating gossiping about the neighbors and complaing about her husband in a fast and long monologue. I personally can’t imagine having to learn all that text, let alone get it out in a coherent manner that people won’t tune out in after 40 seconds.
I don’t have the program with me to accurately recall who played who and their names, so I will just say that everyone was good. My favorites were the guy who played Mr. Zero, Amy Thone as Mrs. Zero, and the guy who played Shrdlu (I think that’s the character name – the guy who killed his mom). In any case, everyone seemed believable. I almost never thought some was saying their lines just to say their lines, which I of course am paying extra attention to since I’m in acting school, and taking Meisner classes.
I’m not a theater critic by any stretch, but I can tell you that I was thoroughly impressed. Go see this show. I mean it.