nytheatre.com review by Nancy Kim
October 14, 2007
Look around any office: workers drone away; mundane tasks have desperate significance; and there's an acute awareness of time passing. This is perfectly satirized by The Combustibles, a New York based group, in Burnt Umber, a sharp performance highlighting the absurdity and silliness of the everyday office experience.
Co-creators and performers Anne Sorce and Liza Zapol are clown secretaries named Tamari and Tami. Whether it's a natural disaster, nuclear meltdown, or the apocalypse, we're not certain, but the secretaries emerge wearing office clothes slightly burned and ripped along the edges. They continue onward to the office where a number of markers suggest that it could be any day at work: throwing around the usual office speak, getting hang-ups over minor slights; and settling into familiar routines. Of course, neither Tamari nor Tami seem phased that they are working alongside a large fire-blackened coagulated lump of office detritus. This vagueness and the absurd acceptance of the situation harkens to familiar Beckettian themes. And while Tamari and Tami are supremely funny little clowns, there is always an unsettling and bleak cloud hovering over this world.
Director Rachel Eckerling is also credited with creating this piece. And together with the performers Sorce and Zapol, she introduces a time-racing office disaster that leads to a surprising culmination with some spectacular visual results. The trio of women has crafted a superb performance that achieves both masterful humor and unexpected depth of ideas. If their future productions strive to hit those same levels, The Combustibles are surely a theatre company to watch closely.