The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players
nytheatre.com review by Stan Richardson
June 24, 2005
The Trachtenburgs are a family you simply must meet. Jason (the father) is the songwriter, Tina (the mother) is the slideshow projector, Rachel (their 11-year-old daughter) is the drummer, and collectively they form The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. A self-described “indie-vaudeville conceptual art-rock pop band,” The Trachtenburgs have quite a novel gimmick: they rummage through garage sales and the like to acquire collections of slides (most are at least two decades old), write songs about them, and create a unique audio-visual-theatrical presentation that you won’t soon forget. The family has toured internationally with their friendly, low maintenance, and genuinely bizarre act and has now settled (briefly) at the Lamb's Theatre for an off-Broadway run. You don’t want to miss them.
Shawn Patrick Anderson’s charming set is reminiscent of the basement of a suburban home where a teenager starter band might “jam” if the garage were already occupied. Jason (who plays the guitar, piano and keyboard, in addition to singing) and Rachel (who sings back-up in addition to her masterful drumstick-wielding) are both dressed in vintage '70s outfits selected by Tina (who is perched proudly at the slide projector). Their set consists of nine songs, such as “Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959” (a family or tour group’s collection of just that) and “Super D Presentation” (a pre-PowerPoint presentation, circa 1979, informing McDonald’s shareholders about the need for increased advertising to beat out competitors).
Jason’s lyrics, directly related to the text or “story” of each slide (or series thereof), are purposefully cumbersome to guide our sense of irony to his intended targets, be it corporate camaraderie or domestic complacency. His musicianship is sloppy, but intuitive and funny. Not so for Rachel, a beautiful, placid girl whose percussive talents nearly steal the show.
The space between songs is filled by Jason’s witty mumblings about… whatever occurs to him—say an epiphany about a Neil Diamond lyric, or perhaps this nascent epidemic of jukebox musicals. This patter, as engaging as the songs themselves, feels conversational and might be, if your mind-mouth connection is as unobstructed as his. There is a point rather early in the show when the houselights come up and the audience is invited to ask questions of the family “both about the songs and slides, and our health and fitness regimen.” Not surprisingly, most of the questions are directed to Rachel, who fields them like a pro. By the end of this segment, you will totally want to be her friend.
In fact, there seems to be a mutual affection between the Trachtenburgs (including Tina, a silent, but glowing presence) and their audience. This warmth and availability—this sense of, well, family—makes their show transcend the Clever and the Shticky. Jason, Tina, and Rachel are absolutely worth an hour of your time; let them cleanse your theatre-going palate and make you feel genuinely at home.