nytheatre.com review by Shelley Molad
June 24, 2008
Q & A: The Perception of Dawn, one of many plays that premiered at the Brick Theater's Film Festival: A Theater Festival this month, is a mock Q & A session with the actors, director, screenwriter, and producer of a recently released (fictitious) independent film entitled "The Perception of Dawn." Written by Danny Bowes, if this play had a mojo it would say, "art is an imitation of life." Essentially, what you have here is art imitating art imitating life. While it may sound confusing, the whole construct of the play is quite ingenious. Using the real audience as a mock audience, with a few who are lucky enough to participate, it is the interactive element of Q & A that makes it so enjoyable.
Upon entering the theatre, audience members receive a program for "The Perception of Dawn" (the film) with painstakingly hilarious, but not far-fetched, bios of each character. And a select few receive questions on paper that are posed throughout the session—how this element was choreographed remains a mystery, but more points to the cast for pulling this one off. The stage is simply set with a line of chairs for the actors, producer, screenwriter, and director, who remain seated while the session is conducted by Master of Ceremonies Garry Broheim played by Ken Simon, who, by no accident, is reminiscent of James Lipton of Inside the Actor's Studio. The show itself is a commentary on Hollywood, art, entertainment politics, and so forth—and it serves to show how everyone involved functions in a symbiotic yet somewhat vindictive way.
Far more interesting than the actual questions and answers are the unexpected interior monologues (or soliloquies) strewn throughout, which make up the real meat of the play. Using a simple yet effective light transition, nicely done by designer Amanda Woodward, the characters step forward toward the audience and reflect on how they actually feel, re-enacting events as they really happened versus how they were represented. What's so engaging is how candidly the actors reveal the most vulnerable and human aspects of their characters: teen-star-gone-bad Bethany Brandon (played by director Gyda Arber) dotes on the first time she graced an industry party with a pure sense of who she was; novice director Brett Domenico (Jorge Cordova) admits his success is a direct result of his being born to famous and influential parents; trained method-actor-turned-film-star Julien Darrow (Michael Criscuolo) regrets that his many accomplishments in "the theatre" have gone overlooked; and snarky producer Christine Griffin (Rebecca Comtois) reveals she's been wounded by love and is not as heartless as everybody thinks. There's a really wonderful sense of ensemble work here—a combination of good direction, solid writing, and actors who have done their homework by undoubtedly contributing a personal, specific, detailed history for their characters, enabling them to come to life before our eyes.
The climactic ending, in which a secret is revealed and instigates a massive fight scene involving everyone, is a little over the top and a trite way to end a smart piece. But, luckily, the actors return for a real Q & A, which nicely ties the knot. It's a shame there was a light audience on the night I attended, but that didn't stop anyone from fully engaging in a couple of memorable Q & A sessions.