Hilarious, brilliant, insightful, challenging, philosophical, and inspirational, are just a few words that come to mind to describe CollaborationTown's The Momentum. It is an incisive indictment of faux-inspirational jargon that has come into fashion in the field of self-help. Find a way to see this show at the Laurie Beechman Theater this month for an intelligent comedy that will have you giggling all the way through and emerge relishing the privilege we all have of struggling to be truly ourselves.
I began laughing just from the opening sugary pump-up techno-pop song. It's established that we're the audience to a sort of self-help presentation just by the three actors' beaming presence, entering the stage and applauding vigorously. In his side-splitting opening monologue, Geoffrey Decas has the wide-eyed fervor of a half-hypnotized prophet, steadily contained in his nervous repetitive intonation and gesturing. He is positive about everything: it's clear he has found the answer we are all looking for. The play's voice is already conspicuous about the ridiculousness of claiming to dwell in constant bliss.
Director Lee Sunday Evans has made movement and choreography choices as though the characters had arranged the presentation themselves, with an oddly punctuated rhythm, confused gaffes, and bizarre theatricality, while maintaining the presence of the same uncertainty and dishonesty at conflict within the characters themselves. Boo Killebrew has a very different way of presenting this inner conflict than Decas. While Decas remains in a dumbfounded daze (which however constant is somehow always newly laughter-inducing), we can see Killebrew struggling in every moment to maintain her outer cheeriness. The way her smile slowly drips off or attempt to twitches itself into full position makes any moment of pause alive with hilarity. Jordan Seavey's character is less successful in keeping up appearances, so his distress is more often present.
The writing by Decas, Killebrew, and Seavey is really superb. Also co-created with Evans and TJ Witham, it effectively satires proclaimed panaceas for living happily such as "The Secret" or "The Power of Positive Thinking." It destroys prescriptive mentalities and hollow axioms in favor of honesty.
The piece concludes with each character telling his or her own story of honest overcoming, framed as general advice for the listening audience; their personal stories are told in the form of commands. This device gives a powerful and innovative voice to these monologues. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end during Decas's confession about coming out of the closet. Killebrew confronts stagnation and spite in getting over a break-up with stunning openness.
Then it was over and I wanted more. But I guess there really is nothing more to be said. From denial comes acceptance. Each character breaks through his/her barely-held-together mask. The only way to actually live in the present is to effectively confront the past.
This is the funniest and most profound play I've seen in a while. I could not recommend The Momentum any more highly.