nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
February 20, 2009
Imagine that you're having a dream, and in that dream are six others who have gathered in a place that's Seventh Street Small Stage (only at the same time it's also somewhere else, in the way that places are illusory in dreams); and these six others are dreaming inside your dream, or remembering dreams; and their dreams all took place as they were heading to the restaurant that's attached to Seventh Street Small Stage, or after they got there (because one of the six is a chef, one is a waitress, one is a bartender, and the rest are customers who all turned up, perhaps randomly, at the same time); and gathered within this place, or this dream, all recount what they dreamt, and you, in your dream, get to listen...
That approximates, as best as my meager words can manage, the strange, elliptical, hallucinatory experience of Nobody, the newest short play by Crystal Skillman, as realized by director Daniel Talbott and an excellent cast of six, in Rising Phoenix Rep's production at (of course) Seventh Street Small Stage. Talbott has placed his actors right among the audience (or vice versa) within the intimate setting for this site-specific monologue play; and the dim light—like dusk, just when you realize it's time to turn the lights on—and the abstracted ambience make the whole experience feel like the waking dream I just described.
The play introduces us to these six characters—or perhaps more accurately, to aspects of their characters. We meet Kat, a proofreader, who talks about a friend's wedding that got under her skin; and later we meet Anna, that friend, a teacher who has come to meet Kat at this place for reasons that may not be clear even to them. There's also Kash, the barkeep, and Alex, his roommate who is also the chef at this restaurant; Ilona, the waitress; and Louise, an older woman still wearing her coat who everyone seems to notice but no one seems to know.
Skillman has these people reveal themselves, inadvertently and almost in passing, in little breathtaking non-sequitur asides. Alex tells us, "When I got home, 4 in the morning, I tried to jerk off, but didn't have the heart to finish." And Anna confides:
I go through my books:
Philip K. Dick
I'm obviously schizophrenic.
And the truth is, I've never read these books.
I just love going to bookstores.
In an important way, this is all that Nobody is about—the ways that in fact everybody is Somebody, because of those idiosyncratic, individual details that make us so and sometimes prevent us from connecting as we intend. Because Skillman describes the locale of the play as a "waiting room," we also understand that there's a sense of anticipation and of the unfinished about these lives. My companion heard echoes of a catastrophic event affecting them all, and I think she's right about that. Nobody is enigmatic, like life, made up of little snippets of detail that add together in different ways.
The six actors register vividly in their roles; in the order we meet them, they are Jessica Dickey (Kat), Haynes Thigpen (Alex), MacLeod Andrews (Kash), Polly Lee (Ilona), Kathryn Kates (Louise), and Molly Ward (Anna).
Nobody, less than an hour long, is another of Rising Phoenix's early evening offerings, performed at six o'clock as the start to whatever dinner/entertainment plans you may have for a full Manhattan night out.