nytheatre.com review by Chance Muehleck
Early in Laurel Haines’ full-length dark comedy Raw Footage, our
protagonist Christopher (J. Garrett Glaser) says to his overly insistent
boss, "It takes fearlessness to look at death for what it is." It also
takes a certain kind of playwright to deal with issues of loss, truth,
and mass media in very funny, if not always completely honest, terms.
Haines wants us to pay attention to ourselves and the things we take for
granted (love and family, mostly); her writing and this production by
The Red Handed Theater Company don’t quite meet that challenge, but
their efforts are commendable.
August 15, 2002
A young girl (Jamie, played with great stillness by Elizabeth Tidy) is dying. Her family is brutish and grossly unsupportive; a pill-popping nurse is also present (C.J. Gelfand), though her back story and reasons for being there made little sense to me. Into the mix comes Christopher, a filmmaker whose company, Raw Footage, is producing a documentary based around Jamie’s death. It is with Christopher that we most closely identify, as he runs the gamut from inexperienced boy scout to desperate sellout; after a particularly candid exchange between Jamie’s parents, he yells "Cut!" and we are artfully made aware of the thin line between real life and "reel" life. Raw Footage is at its best when it examines this paradox, for it informs our perception of the play itself and implicates us in its events.
Less successful is the overall tone of the production; Mark Armstrong directs some scenes as borderline slapstick, undercutting the play’s more harrowing moments. Certain characters are presented to us as caricatures (the nurse; Christopher’s boss Betty, played with hysterical fury by Irene McDonnell), and by the second act many of them have become the sum of their stereotypes; this is probably the point, but it only helps expose the play’s machinery, not its satire. To Armstrong’s credit, he keeps the show moving at a brisk pace. The actors are focused, though not always on the same things. And the production elements are ambitious yet haphazard, particularly the use of a video screen where we occasionally see the results of Christopher’s handiwork (it doesn’t tell us anything very new about what happens onstage).
FringeNYC is an ideal venue for new plays to find themselves and their audiences; let that idea be your guide as you make your way to La Tea to see Raw Footage.