The Town of No One
nytheatre.com review by Julia Lee Barclay
August 21, 2011
This play by Tariq Hamami is directed by Leah Bonvissuto and produced by Playsmiths. It is a dystopic view of a town on the edge of somewhere that has managed to live without recourse to the "religobook" that dominates the lives of the unseen towns elsewhere. There are supposedly no rules in this town, but of course there are, as it is ruled de facto by "Deadmen," a man we later learn had come from one of the other towns with his daughter as a "runaway" and so is dedicated to making sure the influence of the religobook does not take hold in this town. But he rules through some mysterious ability to have "coins," which he gets for burying the dead people that float down the river from the religobook towns.
In the first act, he tries to stymie his daughter Mag’s growing love for a recent "runaway" arrival, saying he fears the influence of the religobook, but it is clearly his fear of losing control of his daughter. Initially, he does control her through deception and the barmaid, Mother May, says to Mag dolefully at the end of that act "Welcome to the world."
However, in the second act, the daughter decides to take up the recently vacated post of Mayor (which had been decorative only so Deadmen could control without being visible—reminiscent of many puppet governments in many parts of the world actually run by secretive power brokers or corporations). There is a kind of dialectic set up between humanity ruling and law ruling; the moral of the story seems to be that power controls everything. I am not certain if this is meant to be a political message or an assertion of fact, but I suppose because of the Brechtian undertones of the production style, I was somewhat disappointed in its ultimate cynicism.
The members of the cast all give solid, traditional acting performances, which appear to function somewhere between presentational and realistic. The actors are Helen McTernan as Mag, Michael Selkirk as Deadmen, Ben Newman as Bub, James Parenti as Harold, Jim Nugent as Mayor Monty, Iremimen Oniha as Felice, Mary Catherine Wilson as Mother May, and Timothy John McDonough as Charlie.
The costumes by Ashley Rose Hurton provide good, evocative color. The set by Joshua David Bishop works in a functional way, though I did not understand why the bar moved around. The fight choreography by Kelsey Kurz was not very convincing, but that may be because I was sitting in the front row.
The audience, however, seemed to like the show a lot, even though I was not so convinced.