nytheatre.com review by Nancy Kim
June 23, 2008
Fist in the Pocket Theater brings back their solo theatre performance of Washing Machine to the Sanford Meisner Theatre in Manhattan. The original production team returns to explore the mysterious and tragic accident of a five-year-old girl's drowning inside a laundromat washing machine.
Inspired by a 2005 Washington Post article detailing the drowning of the girl from an out-of-the-way Virginia town, playwright Jason Stuart creates a small world surrounding this tragic event from the cast of eight characters, all performed by Dana Berger. Much like the character of the insurance claims adjuster investigating the accident, Stuart, Berger, and director Michael Chamberlin work together as theatrical investigators to look beyond the centerpiece of the horrific accident.
The physical centerpiece, though, is the ingenious set by Akiko Kosaka. A sculptural-like piece of Plexiglas with metal frames is designed to look like a huge drum of a washing machine while also doubling as a sort of modernistic playground, perfect for Berger to play around in. Five plastic baggies of water—their simplicity rather ominous—are suspended in the air and are used effectively in the beginning and end, especially in the final mesmerizing moments. Lighting by Ben Kato, sound design by Elizabeth Rhodes, and costumes by Amanda Bujak all complement the overall design. As movement director, Brendan McCall deserves mention for shaping a powerful physical language that is intriguing, terrifying, and thrilling.
While the design and movement are bold, the snapshots of the different characters did not affect me as much. The hard-working Berger is admirable in her ability to keep track of the characters quickly, and with the simplest of gestures she is able to delineate each transformation. The characters' monologues themselves, though, seem predictably invented, such as the hyper-angsty stepbrother or the broad strokes of the corporate shill.
Nonetheless, Washing Machine is a provocative presentation and Fist in the Pocket Theater succeeds in putting together a superb team of collaborators for this production.