TOWER OF BABBLE
nytheatre.com review by David Johnston
Tower of Babble, writer-director-performer Jennifer
Ostrega’s one-woman FringeNYC offering, is a smart, likeable,
and poisonous little show. Ostrega offers a peek into the
workday lives of several employees at a corporate monolith with
an unnamed function, Tower of Babble.
August 15, 2003
As a writer, Ostrega has a great ear for the casual cruelties and absurdities of corporate America, where employees are downsized, then sent off to a ten-minute counseling session with a yoga teacher. There’s something for everyone who’s ever raged at the machine here.
Parts are wickedly inspired, and speak of a sharply observed personal experience. One employee deals with an irate person on the phone, who demands to speak to her supervisor. Ostrega dutifully puts the person on hold, stands up and bursts into an exuberant choreographed dance for several minutes, then sits back down and tells her caller that the supervisor isn’t available at this time. A human resources drone tells a new interviewee that she works so hard, she hasn’t had time to change her tampon five days after her period. A sunny West Virginia "branding" specialist cheerfully pink slips her employees in the midst of a presentation.
As a performer, Ostrega’s characterizations lean towards the cartoonish, but like all good comedians she shows us the glimpses of pain and desperation underneath these people’s lives. She is also very, very good at the casual, throwaway line that speaks volumes.
Jennifer Ostrega knows what FringeNYC is for. Tower of Babble could use some tightening and sharpening. She knows these characters but doesn’t always dig deep enough to satisfy her audience. There are the occasional awkward transitions, par for the course in one-performer shows. No matter. Ostrega is perceptive, generous, and funny. Hopefully, this run will help and encourage this talented young artist to put a few coats of polish on the work. It’s all it needs.