Limericks from UnDisclosed Locations/Déjà Vu Punked
nytheatre.com review by Kimberly Wadsworth
April 22, 2006
Each of the two plays by Larry Myers now running in rep at the Shetler studios (Limericks from Undisclosed Locations and Déjà vu Punked) is a collection of brief monologues united by a common theme. Limericks looks at various survivors of Hurricane Katrina, speaking from Louisiana and Mississippi. As far as the writing goes, it’s the stronger of the two—I was so struck by some of the detail in each of the characters’ speeches that I asked Myers if he was from New Orleans; he is not. He did spend a month volunteering in the area after the storm, though, and no doubt it was there that he met several of the actual people who inspired some of the characters: a bird lover who is now forced to relocate to a shelter and leave his birds behind, for example, or a young man who speaks of Sean Penn with near-religious devotion.
I wasn’t as certain of the theme to Déjà vu Punked. At times the collection seems to comment on the American obsession with superficiality and trivia; reality TV and plastic surgery are mocked frequently. On the other hand, there’s a piece with a young woman whose fear of terrorism has her spooked into regarding everyone she meets as an agent of Al Qaeda, one with a man suffering from chronic pain, and one with a man rhapsodizing about a ménage a trois relationship he once had, so I’m not sure.
Both pieces share many of the same actors. One of the real standouts is Katherine Forsatz, who appears as the aforementioned woman afraid of terrorism in Punked, as well as a self-absorbed actress in another monologue; she also plays a rape survivor in Limericks. Her sheer intensity led someone in the audience to become very involved in the show—when her actress character was pleading of the audience, “You do notice me, don’t you? Don’t you?” one woman in the front blurted out, “I do!” Also notable is Dorcas Davis, who plays a traumatized flood survivor in Limericks and a discontented drifter in Punked. Megan Raye Manzi appears only once in Punked, but shines as a perky young woman making an audition tape for a makeover program. Tom Mazur also stands out as a man arrested for assault after a confrontation on a talk show.
For every strong actor, however, there is another who doesn’t seem comfortable onstage. Some deliver their monologues in a monotone; others reach a state of over-earnestness and stay there. A couple of people even stumbled over their words at the performance I attended. At times I wondered if this was perhaps a year-end showcase for an acting class. Director George Trahanis, who also appears in both pieces (and shares directing duties with Matthew Fisher for Limericks), has chosen a staging that seems to add to an “audition” feel; the ensemble is onstage throughout each show, each one taking stage center in their appointed time—but before and after each of their monologues, everyone sits in a row of chairs upstage, each holding a headshot in front of his or her face.
Limericks particularly seems to suffer from this approach; many of the pieces are accounts of the destruction and chaos that we’ve all heard about before. They all need strong performers to give us a fresh look and grab our attention anew, but the ones in the hands of more tentative actors blur together as “yet more accounts of destruction and chaos that we’ve heard about before.” Reviewing the program this morning, I’m finding that there are pieces that I don’t even remember having seen.
Before and after each of the shows, cast members were also signing even more actors up for auditions; it was unclear whether they were auditioning for this particular piece, or for future works. I admire the company’s drive to give new actors a chance, but would suggest that some actors need a good deal more coaching before they step in front of an audience.