Designer X, Your Face, What Are You Doing Here?
nytheatre.com review by Ethan Angelica
June 22, 2009
Designer X, Your Face, What Are You Doing Here?, Maria Alexandria Beech's trio of plays in the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, has got to be one of the most jam-packed evenings I've spent at the theatre in a long while. The three plays, all, connected somewhat thematically and highly political in nature, bounce between topics so rapidly and cover so much ground in a scant 90 minutes that I am still reasoning through them 24 hours later. And that, my friends, is mostly a good sign.
The trio begins with What Are You Doing Here?, a nearly hour-long, rambling monologue that offers a tour-de-force performance opportunity. Our unnamed protagonist (performed exceptionally by Danielle Patsakos), armed with a prepared script, discovers that her ex is seated in the audience. Her rant, wandering from the American political system to sub-prime mortgages to Internet dating, spins out of control, but always connects back to her now-ended relationship. It certainly feels like a true (and often funny!) picture of a raw, recent break-up, where the mind returns constantly to the now-loathed boyfriend and the character becomes lost in a world of complicated personal and international politics. However, with so many different ideas loaded on the audience at such a manic pace and with unrelenting force (pause was only given for Patsakos to point out her now-hated paramour), some of the political bite of Beech's arguments gets lost as well, and I found myself exhaustedly asking, along with the playwright, "if this whole thing is crazy." However, it seems that this may be Beech's intention.
What follows next are two extremely short one-acts. In Your Face, the intrusion of an online dating acquaintance on drinks after work causes denial, mistrust, and, eventually, admission of some deep secrets. Designer X chronicles a couple's attempts to design their perfect child and, while squeaking rubber duckies under their feet, their discovery that, in planning an ideal future, the past gets somewhat muddled. Both have clear political messages about loss of individuality and are simple, cleverly-crafted pieces that stand in stark contrast to the first play. Coming so quickly after What Are You Doing Here?, however, they start to feel a little like an afterthought, as my brain was still trying to reason through what I had just experienced.
As an evening, the plays make an absorbing set. Oscar A. Mendoza's minimalist design and highly physical direction are intriguing to witness and uphold the fast pace, and he does a good job linking all three plays through some smart staging. His cast (which also includes Jeffery Steven Allen, Paul Daily, Sarah Doudna, Stecie Greewell, and Barbara Mundy) makes an impressive ensemble, and is strong throughout. Gabriel Comrie-Pepin's projections are expertly crafted, although I was not always entirely sure of their function. Xavier Paez Haubold's music adds a depth to the piece that underscores many of Beech's principles. Beech offers some wonderfully juicy questions about humanity amid a world of ever-shifting politics and new technologies. I'm still happily working them through right now.