Rockberry: The Final One-Man Show
nytheatre.com review by Robert Weinstein
June 15, 2007
Rockberry: The Last One Man Show, Jollyship the Whiz Bang's multimedia contribution to the Brick's Pretentious Festival, begins with an infomercial projected onto a large white sheet at the back of the stage. Hosted by a man known only as The Mayor, the infomercial's topic is Rockberry, a woodland arts colony dedicated to providing sanctuary and resources to artists seeking to realize their potential. The Mayor roams the colony grounds wearing a three-piece suit, expounding on the importance of the arts and artists, stopping only to sip water from a muddy puddle or sit at his pottery wheel to haphazardly create a bowl. The Mayor gives every impression of someone in love with the sound of his own voice and sets the tone for the ensuing events.
Rockberry tells the story of Kareem La Jordin, a playwright accepted into the colony because of a play he wrote which was deemed brilliant and because of his name which was deemed African American. Kareem is not African American, though, and judging from the criticisms of his fellow colonists—a dancer named Toby, his performing artist girlfriend Grace, and a socially awkward poet named Jill—his play isn't that good.
Rejected by his peers, Kareem takes to the woods with a video camera and, through circumstances I won't spoil by divulging, he encounters The Creature, a being sent from the future who communicates telepathically and encourages him to forget about his play because he is destined to write a one-man show, the contents of which will alter the history of mankind and, more importantly, art. The Creature appears throughout the show as Kareem's muse communicating telepathically in both English and French, its translations projected onto the large white sheet. What follows is a sort of intellectual and metaphysical thriller in which Kareem delves deep within himself to create this preordained masterpiece before he is kicked out of the colony and before madness consumes him.
Nick Jones's script takes an intelligent look at the complexity of creation, examining issues such as the currency of art and its power, the need to create, the desire to be recognized, and the process of creation. Part of the show's enjoyment comes from watching him throw these ideas against one another and allowing the pieces to scatter where they may. His characters speak in a heightened, stylized text without ever condescending to the audience. And they are very, very funny.
The play loses momentum near the end. Jones interrupts the flow of certain storylines to introduce newer ones but the talented cast keep the audience laughing and engaged. Megan Stern is especially good as Jill, effectively embodying the conflict between the desire to be good and the fear that one is not as good as one wishes. Justin Birdsong brings a bratty and disarming charm to the role of Kareem. Carla Corvo is also excellent in her work as The Creature, a silent role, utilizing her expressive face, listening skills, and a love of potato chips.