DEEP STORIES: FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF RICHARD FOREMAN
nytheatre.com review by Don Jordan
The St. Marks Theatre on an August night and a text
by Richard Foreman: what could be more ‘fringe’? In this case, maybe
it’s a little too fringe.
August 15, 2003
Using material culled from unfinished play-text pieces from Foreman’s web site, adapter-director John Issendorf and the rest of the ATM Company attempt to capture the magic of this East Village icon in Deep Stories: From the Notebooks of Richard Foreman. Known for experimentation with style, language, and play development, Foreman’s plays have long been a staple of the avant-garde, their beauty stemming from his use of individualized style and deliberate effort to create an atmosphere of cause and effect, even if it doesn’t seem so at first glance. In Deep Stories, we see nothing of cause, but plenty of effect. Silly props like a rubber fish, a Styrofoam hammer, and a singing pencil sharpener appear without explanation, as do ‘The Glamorous Woman’ and ‘A Man in a Hat’. Without the benefit of background or development, these and other of Issendorf’s choices often feel empty and without justification. At one point, for example, a character asks, "Do you prefer objects over people?" This is quickly answered with, "No. I prefer not people but what is inside people." I was hoping that this new thought might lead to some human, emotional contact among the performers. Instead, it led only to what felt like random, kitschy takes on video, two minutes with a puppet, prop tricks, and a dance number without reason.
At places like FringeNYC, it is important that companies work on material such as Foreman’s, and downtown audiences (including myself) will encourage most attempts to stretch the ramifications of performance. However, in this instance, there seems to be an inadequate glance at the inner life of the material being used. There are a couple of high points to the evening, including Jason St. Sauver’s nearly continuous sound design, which remained interesting throughout, and Norm De Plume’s strong sense of concentration and commitment as ‘A Man in a Hat’, which made me willing to watch for his choices. However, what Foreman’s plays reveal, and Deep Stories seems to miss, is that underneath all the theatricality there is an eager search for real people, their deeper stories, and an answer to all of life’s incongruities. Without this imperative search in place we have nothing to hold our attention.