Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Traverse Theatre 5 August 2008 - Finished With Engines


A production by New York's Riot Group theatre company of a play by Alan McKendrick. A two-hander, it featured Stephanie Viola and Drew Friedman as two US sailors moored off...where? Iran seems to be implied: there is mention of ayatollahs, and it's stated that they're some way outside the tropics. They are observers, watching the playing out of a civil war, and the play progresses in ten scenes which form little vignettes. We see the contrasting characters of Megan (belligerent, feisty, convinced that worldwide nuclear war is imminent and hoping to help bring it about) and Hemingway (writer, an artistic type not really cut out for the military, though with a degree in nuclear physics as well as one in French). Hemingway spends a lot of time peering at the shore through his binoculars, especially at girls when he can (though he more often ends up viewing murders or starving people eating dogs). Megan enjoys winding him up over his artistic sensibilities; meanwhile she's convinced their ship - supposedly unarmed - is in fact carrying a nuclear weapon. At the end, as far as I could tell, the US launches a major air strike (nuclear?) and the pair are left floating alone.

Finished With Engines was billed as a comedy, and while it most certainly had some very funny moments I don't think it really worked as a complete play. It's not just that the ending was rushed and unclear, the whole structure was too episodic to hang together. Stiil, the actors handled the patchy material well, and as I said there were some marvellous moments. One whole scene is simply the physical comedy of Hemingway constructing a gigantic sandwich, a scene whose best moment comes when he pulls a lettuce out of his store, throws it into the air and catches it on the point of his sandwich-making knife. Megan's description of why, for purely aesthetic reasons, the next nuclear attack should be on somewhere on France is also very funny. ("Uh, Megan....Brussels is in Belgium." "Not when we're through with it, it isn't.") As is the scene where they are striving to outdo each other in the I-was-an-abused-child stakes (loser makes the coffee).

An OK way to pass an hour, but I wouldn't recommend going if you haven't already bought a ticket. And having written my piece, I see Lyn Gardner in the Guardian, and others, agree with me.

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