nytheatre.com review by Jeffrey Lewonczyk
Paranoia, stupidity, and
the popular delusion of crowds are classic themes for satire, themes
that America just so happens to have experienced in spades over the past
year. By taking them on in their sharp new show, Panichorea, the
KAiROS! Co. risks offending wide sections of the populace still stinging
from the roller coaster of recent events. But in shrewdly adopting a
framework that sidesteps the whole issue of the WTC attacks, focusing
instead on the aftermath of media, public, and institutional panic in
the face of the unknown, Panichorea will only give offense to
those who deserve it.
August 15, 2002
The show’s title refers to a mysterious disease that the newscasters (who appear in recurring video supplements) tell us has been spreading through the nation via Colombian coffee. In a series of scenes that display the response to the unfolding events as they spread from the average schmos watching TV through the medical community, corporate America, religious establishments, and the government, the show manages to snipe at the zealousness of corporate sponsorship, the bomb-happy follies of American foreign policy, the ability of sex to sell anything, and the need for people in fear to grab hold of a God, any God (even if it just turns out to be a table). The clever writing (courtesy of Richard Hinojosa) creates a cohesive world in which nothing is sacred and nothing is certain: coffee represents both anthrax and foreign oil; doctors both exacerbate and soothe the panic; disaster is both bad and good for business. There are also a lot of fart jokes.
The performers (Hinojosa, Joseph Langham, Clint McCown, and Teresa Ryno) are a beautifully tight ensemble, and they are each equally at home in the wacky roles AND the straight roles. Everyone gets a chance to flaunt their stuff, and they take full advantage. (Highlights include Hinojosa’s happy-go-lucky conspiracy theorist; Langham’s Crocodile-Hunter-esque Johnny Prevention; Ryno’s narcoleptic, cranky old bag; and McCown’s senile, Jimmy-Stewart-inspired General, who presides over a particularly scathing military tribunal.) My only caveat is that I experienced fewer true belly laughs than I expected, but that seems a quibble. Overall, the show is whip-smart, funny, and slick (in the good way). I left not exhausted from laughter, but satisfied that someone has addressed current events with imagination and panache. And fart jokes.