Arts & Events

God's Ear at Shotgun: Another Take

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday May 25, 2010 - 01:26:00 PM

On an expressionistic set by Lisa Clark that seems poised to feature THE SNOW QUEEN, a talkative, dysfunctional family plays out what would be a whimsical, if tortuous, opera comique of words, words, words—the vernacular, ever in flux--with attendant ballet, if the occasion wasn't the drowning of a son, with the verbal upshot from grotesque strangers and fantasy figures spiraling around other lost boys ... 

Erica Chong Shuch, better known as a choreographer, has staged Jenny Schwartz's play GOD'S EAR with a brilliant eye for tableaux and movement, ear ever alert to Schwartz's word play, sometimes a hilarious burlesque of the common coin of speech—especially when trying to make a pointless point, impress, or just keep the conversation unraveling—occasionally almost elegaic, mostly ditsy—sometimes cloyingly repetitive, like third-rate Gertrude Stein.  

Her partners-in-crime—Beth Wilmurt as the overly-expository mother, Ryan O'Donnell as her wandering husband, Nika Ezell Pappas as their inquisitive daughter ... and the others who chirp, chime (and jump) in: Melinda Meeng as the Tooth Fairy, Keith Pinto as GI Joe (and a bearded, transvestite,pistol-packin' stewardess), plus Joseph Estlack as the sideburn'd, Hawaiian-shirted Guy in a bar, and his loose counterpart, Zehra Berkman as airhead saloon maven—are all at, or near, the top of their game, not to mention the light, sound, costume designers ... so the show—a triumph for Shotgun, somewhat reminiscent of the episodic form and ensemble brilliance of ARABIAN NIGHT at the Ashby stage, five years ago—would be worth seeing for the performance and production values alone.  

Schwartz's endless, often hilarious verbal conundrums best hit their mark, like wry tales of Zen archery, in bar-room and airline cabin, where talk's always plentiful and cheap. There, with the whoosh! of air conditioning and ice-making machines, it can be hilarious, hysterical, like slightly politer versions of vignettes by William Burroughs, scenes from Phil Kaufman's THE WANDERERS ... At other moments—long, repetitive moments—there’s just the sound of feedback, cycling over and over, of the game, not the voices of the poor souls playing it. 

(And here it’s only right to single out Joseph Estlack, a founder of the gestural theater troupe mugwumpin, for his virtuosic performance as the Guy, working from offbeats and rapid turnovers of expression to piece together a totally ludicrous character, who boyishly opens up, suddenly, with a pirouette, before getting back in the grind again: brilliant!)  

Patrick Dooley & crew knew what they were up to, when they hauled in this gamey fish and hoisted it up on the Ashby Stage.