BABYLON, LONG ISLAND
nytheatre.com review by Mark O’Toole
Babylon, long island is a 90-minute one-man, one-act show,
written, directed and performed by Gregg Tome in his first
appearance in FringeNYC. Tome is no newcomer to the theatre,
however, having performed in various off-off Broadway
productions and in Los Angeles. In fact, Babylon, long island
was first performed at the Theatre at the Improv in Los Angeles.
August 15, 2002
Tome’s experience shows. Babylon may very well be the finest show in FringeNYC this year. Babylon is a nostalgic tale of Tome’s hometown of Babylon, Long Island during the summer of 1977, woven together in a series of witty monologues delivered by nine men whose lives are intertwined. Each character is a resident, indeed a fixture, of this small town; each is a philosopher and likes to talk. What do they talk about? Themselves—but there are motifs that traverse their speeches—they all share an appreciation for the cyclical nature of transition, life, history, the environment ... and Babylon’s sewage system.
An old man called "Hi-Hello" likes to shout at schoolchildren from the porch of his nursing home and asks where you’re going and where you’ve been. "Nanzo K’Manzo," a young man who cruises the town on a bicycle wearing a cape and goggles to convince everyone he’s crazy, talks about breaking out of the "circle" called normality. The "Cesspool Man," a plumber steeped in the history of the town’s sewage, tells us about little "circles" in the earth waiting for the return of the individual cesspool. "Furaha," "the only black kid in town" speaks from within the circle of the wrestling ring, where he has become the town’s star athlete. "Donnie," who makes an unseen appearance in all of the other vignettes, talks about little red "dots" connecting Babylon to the rest of the world.
There is no overstating that this story is complex and well written. Each character manages to tell us a little about the others so well that I was looking forward to seeing some of them long before they made their appearance. I’m still thinking about them. Likewise, one cannot overemphasize that the show is marvelously performed by Tome and perfectly executed by his crew. Lights dim after each monologue, classic rock fades gently in, and Tome peels off layers of clothing to make each transition to a new character. Without missing a beat, he picks up an innocuous-looking prop in a corner of the stage, the spotlight flashes back on, and he turns to the crowd with a startlingly different face, voice and personality. I could have sworn there were nine actors on the stage, not one. While the memory play is hardly original, this show has everything it needs to make its mark: a deeply inspired story, a remarkable performance and perfect timing.