THE HERMITAGE OF AN EXILED CHAIN SMOKER
nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
Step down into the Ground Floor Theatre and you’re escorted into the
boarded-up refuge of a man too terrified to leave his apartment. The
play follows Caleb, who has graciously invited us into his neurotic,
spasmodic, asthmatic, obsessive-compulsive and mother-blaming life. His
range of social/mental disorders is only matched in magnitude by the
chemicals in his cigarettes, which according to the American Lung
Association number over 500.
August 15, 2003
The Hermitage of an Exiled Chain Smoker is a one-man biting satire which tears into the current Mayor and the recent smoking ban. It’s written by Michael Cyril Creighton (who also stars in the show) and Liz Blocker. This collaboration considers the ban to be an attack on our civil liberties. They may be correct. The play is sharply comedic with brutal and black humor—the qualities I love most about a great play. It is deftly directed by Carl Andress, who keeps Creighton at a near manic pace for most of the play. The voices in Caleb’s head are provided by the versatile Sheila Head.
The play warns us; "Sometimes your drug chooses you." If this is true Caleb was picked by loneliness. The cigarette is a substitution for a love that was never there. Caleb needs to fill a familiar void. Don’t we all need something and don’t we all use something to fill our own? It is on this emotional level that we sympathize with the smoker and where this one-time stand up "comedy routine" has blossomed into a play about a human being. The humor infuses the political rant which the writers make loud and clear. Blocker and Creighton present an intelligent argument for the ludicrousness of the recent smoking ban and how it could symbolically and economically hurt the smokers (and non) of this city.
No credit was given to a designer, but lights, set, and sound all are professional and serve the piece well. Upon leaving the theatre I could see the play’s immediate effect. Was it an inspired call to arms (or lips, as the case may be)? A smokers’ revolution about to be ignited? Had the drug indeed chosen its future statistics? A quick count revealed one in five people lighting up as soon as they hit the sidewalk.