No More Pretending
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
July 6, 2007
If, as has been said, theatre holds up a mirror to nature, what happens if nobody bothers to look at the reflection? Kirk Wood Bromley's dark comedy No More Pretending is about the compact between artist and spectator: an uncompromising look at compromise. It asks what theatre is for and why its creators create it. It rails against indie ideals and commercial selloutism; it's at once a celebration of the impulse to make art and a cautionary allegory about the side effects of giving in to said impulse.
It takes place in a theatre, into which one-time indie theater star Alan Benditt has apparently wandered for a few moments of contemplation. He is surprised by his former colleague Matt Oberg, who hops onto the stage like a bunny (Bugs by way of Energizer) and lopes directly into seemingly nonstop patter about his enormous thespic success in film. Mobad, as he styles himself, talks in weird proto-hip-hop jive, and reminisces with Al about "the shit we used to do" in between cell phone calls from an assortment of players. The climactic call is from Al Casino, the famous temperamental movie star who, Mobad says, is a pal and associate (substitute a "P" for the "C" and you'll know who he's talking about).
Through it all, Al is at once appalled, enraged, and envious. He's a guy who did hundreds of plays for no pay and less recognition; he's left the business and now works in a bank. Mobad, 20 years younger, seems to have made it and to have it made. When Mobad tells him Al Casino wants to audition him over the phone, principles fly out the window; Al is ready to sell his artistic soul for a crappy movie part.
And then No More Pretending executes a very transparently deus-ex-machina maneuver as Meg MacCary appears, seemingly out of nowhere, to remind both Al and Matt of the reasons they do what they do (or, more accurately, why they did "the shit they used to do"). The arguments are never quite 100% convincing (and Al is never quite 100% convinced); I choose to view that as an artistic choice by the playwright rather than either cynicism or hedging on his part.
No More Pretending is not just throught-provoking; it's very funny and very entertaining, thanks in no small part to the excellent work of its three actors, all of whom portray characters bearing their exact names. The play is particularly a showcase for Oberg, who gets to be serious and to clown effusively; his Pacino impression alone is pretty much a riot. But Benditt and MacCary acquit themselves beautifully, too, as will not be a surprise to Bromley/downtown theatre fans. It all plays out smoothly under Howard Thoresen's careful, considered direction. And of course the language is what we should now start calling Bromleyesque: no one else writing today makes words sing, soar, pun, and puncture they way this playwright can.
It is, all in all, a propitious beginning to Soho Think Tank's Ice Factory 2007, and a harbinger, perhaps, of new shadings and attitudes from Bromley and his Inverse Theater Company.