Compression of a Casualty and Fox(y) Friends
nytheatre.com review by David Ledoux
June 15, 2007
We live in a time where our cultural landscape jumps between superficial mind candy and self-indulgent art for art's sake. You would think with a war and with one of the most corrupt administrations in American history that we would have more artists stepping up to the plate trying to provide real, complex, and thoughtful pieces of art to stir up the public discourse. Sponsored by Nobody takes on the challenge of satirizing one of the most destructive institutions in our democracy: the cable news media.
I believe both Fox(y) Friends and Compression of a Casualty have their hearts in the right place. Writer/director Kevin Doyle has come up with a great concept using text "grounded in actual transcripts," but these pieces both seem to run out of gas very early on.
The evening begins with the play Fox(y) Friends, in which we see four actors playing the roles of the Fox & Friends crew in front of a screen that has their actual pictures projected onto it. Each of them begins his or her own separate monologue about everything from force fields to Legos. They speak almost oblivious to the others who share the stage, freezing while someone else speaks. The result is an absurdist tapestry of non-sequitors while images of E.D Hill, Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Julian Phillips images are projected on the back wall.
I found Fox(y) Friends funny, relevant, and I was on their side. But then the same joke went on and on until I was waiting for something new. The structure of the piece is missing peaks and valleys, turning points, and variety. News anchors expounding on their multi-layered force fields, sleeping dysfunctions, testicular situations, and merchandising opportunities is funny. It's funny for a long time. But this nearly 40-minute play goes a little beyond where it remains funny. And then after that there's no insight, no humanity, no point beyond what we all got immediately: that the media is manipulative, shallow entertainment.
I do think, however, that it could be a very good piece. I had the feeling that it is one or two new directorial or writing choices away from being able to sustain this good concept for the length of the play.
Compression of a Casualty shows us two CNN news anchors quickly reporting the anonymous death of a soldier in Iraq, shortly before going on to discuss Kobe Bryant. The Soldier then comes out and speaks directly to the audience, filling in the details of his own death. This piece seems to be saying that the news media is popular culture drivel that doesn't deal with the important stories in a responsible, in-depth, and professional way. Again, I couldn't agree more, but the simplicity of the image of the soldier with the newscasters says it all, and there didn't seem to be much reason for the piece to go on for the 15 minutes that it did.
But despite my issues with the logistics of the pieces, thank you Sponsored by Nobody for commenting on the mind rot all around us.