Random Particles of Matter Floating in Space
nytheatre.com review by Pamela Butler
April 11, 2007
The title of this 50-minute comic drama could describe just about anything in the universe, so the fact that it's a play about love among some random people seems as reasonable a proposition as any.
Jonathan Elba Productions is behind this first staging of Michael Allen's new work, Random Particles of Matter Floating in Space, and both Jonathan (Albert) and Elba (Sette-Camara) play two of the major characters, Tommy and Chloe, ex-lovers.
It is Tommy's idea to break into Chloe's apartment with the aid and comfort of his new lover, Danny, a wild young man, delightfully played by Aaron Haskell. The reason for the break-in is possibly some sort of revenge, since Tommy plans to make love to Danny in Chloe's bed and leave enough evidence to fire his fantasy of her sleeping in their afterglow. If it weren't for the press release letting on, I would have found the scene in which we discover that Danny is Chloe's younger brother as surprising as it is funny. The playwright has a knack for being off-handedly momentous.
The potential for this set-up is rich, and I wanted to see more of the play match some of its singular moments, and all of the dialogue be at the level of the few well-wrought scenes. The company is into supporting and developing work of new playwrights, and this is a good example of a work-in-progress that has further to go.
Tommy (or "Tom" as he insists, even at the most ridiculously inappropriate moments) seems to have had a long relationship with Chloe before they broke up. As straight as Jonathan Albert seems as Tommy, he is convincing as Danny's lover, because he's in love with both siblings, and, one way or another, he really wants them both. What happens seems perfectly logical. He can't have them both, no one is happy, and blood is thicker than water.
The Sonnet Theatre at the Producers Club is tiny, the playing space small, and seating right up to its edge. There's plenty of physical action and we flinched a couple of times, but director Denyse Owens keeps the ensemble contained—even Haskell, bouncing on the bed with seeming spastic abandon, didn't lose control. Haskell is a dancer and truly impressive in his ability to make Danny look like an awkward, rhythmless, adolescent boy, grooving on his sexuality and youthful vitality.
There are some outstanding moments of good acting of good dialogue. This was opening night so there's much grace to be given. Sette-Camara is a strong presence who enters like a tornado. But as she settles down she reveals a good comic sense and delivers a hilarious monologue about a trip she and her ex, Tommy, had taken to Disney World.
All three actors cover for what seem like lapses in the text and the directing. There is a fair amount of business on stage that appears random, but not crafted enough to reflect a deliberate point about randomness. Instead it looks like the actors just don't know what to do with items of bedding, tossed photos, discarded clothing. In one scene, when Danny acts out his rage like an infant, Chloe doesn't really react to the damage he does. I don't want to give anything away, but it seems to me she'd want to clean it up pretty quick rather than leaving it to the very end of the play. And there is one awkward onstage costume change, for no reason I could figure out.
The final scene is the most poignant of the play. Understated, almost a non-event, it is full of emotion and tenderness. I left wanting more and I think there is more to be had. This is a new work, a new company, and it was opening night. What felt out of focus to me may become clearer as the production gets underway, and I'll look forward to seeing more Jonathan Elba productions in the future.