Journeypath (?): An Experiment in Rightness
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
July 25, 2007
If you put an equation on a chalkboard in front of me, I will try to solve it. That's me: a secret enjoyer of algebra, I confess it. It may not be you, though, or anybody else. This, I feel, is some of what Theresa Buchheister and her collaborators want to get at in Journeypath(?): An Experiment in Rightness, a new, abstract, frequently obtuse play presented at the Ontological's Incubator Series. The notion that perspective is all seems to be both governing principle and major thematic idea of this piece.
It begins with a character named DC having a conversation, or debate, with another character called BG (who is offstage; we'll eventually discover her hovering over the other characters, on a kind of mezzanine above stage right). The discussion is about the dichotomy of creation and destruction, and as if to illustrate the point, two other characters, called just 1 and 2 in the program, suddenly burst onto the stage. They are, presumably, the creations of DC (though BG seems to be calling the shots: is this a God/Man relationship?). They are put through a variety of paces, or tests, in which they are made to compete. One involves cooking something from found ingredients (there's a working blender on stage, and a George Foreman-style grill as well that seemed to be plugged in; they certainly generated some cooked-food aromas). Another involves solving that equation I mentioned. Still another has to do with pleasing/appeasing BG, who says throughout that she wants blood.
BG gets blood, in a finish that's surprisingly predictable given the relentlessly nonlinear/avant-garde stuff that fills the bulk of Journeypath. Buchheister, who is the show's writer, director, and sound designer, puts some intriguing concepts in play here, but her follow-through is lacking. For example, the equation—a random algebra problem, not specified in the script—did not yield the results that both 1 and 2 arrived at (they were in agreement, so therefore presumably rehearsed). Why not? I wondered. Such random dissonance doesn't make the kind of theatre Buchheister is attempting—where the boundary between meaning and sense depends so thoroughly on the artists' ability to connect to the audience—feel satisfying or satisfactory.
Morgan Pecelli and Tom Picasso, who play 1 and 2, demonstrate remarkable skill and control executing difficult movements and gestures throughout. Justin Anselmi, as DC, engages congenially with the audience when called upon (he spends much of the play seated in the front row, watching the proceedings—there's that idea of perspective once again). Averyn Mackey (BC) has been directed to shriek and shout her lines, though I was never sure why; her character mostly felt annoying to me, not least because the style in which she was presented was so jarringly different from everything else in the piece.
In the end, the equation distracted me a lot: I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get to the results that 1 and 2 arrived at, straining and squinting under the mistaken impression that I was somehow reading the numbers and letters incorrectly. That's no way to communicate to an audience; Buchheister needs to get all the details right before she starts sacrificing so much clarity.