Three Cheers for Three Episodes

Screen-Shot-2019-08-05-at-2.38.35-PM (2)

Review “Abdication” at Theater for the New City
by Max Berry

Written by Naya James, “Abdication” gives us three short plays set in a world very similar to our own, all connected by a suspiciously charming narrator. Each piece is connected by the central theme of “abdication” or “giving up in a public manner” and each proves to be just as entertaining and chilling as the last.

All of the pieces held their own as thought provoking, funny, and often frightening plays, yet when joined together by a sinister narrator and his expressionless minions, there’s a feeling of unease throughout the piece that is very reminiscent of Black Mirror. All linked together by this idea of “abdication”, the worlds of each play feel similar to our own, enough to where many of the scenarios almost seem plausible, but it’s off kilter just enough to make us uncomfortable, to make us think of what we would do if given these particular set of circumstances or this particular technology. Morality, identity, and memory are all put under the microscope.

The first piece presents itself as a simple family story, but quickly takes a turn for the strange when one of the sons of the family, Tommy, reveals that he plans to attach himself to a machine that will essentially put him in a comatose state but allow him to spend three years in a world inside his mind that he can create. His family, of course, is mortified and what follows is not only a fascinating piece of science fiction, but a beautiful story of what a family will do for those they love and our quest for happiness and fulfillment in this world. This all culminates in an impassioned speech by Tony Scheer as Tommy that leaves a powerful resonance in the space upon its conclusion.

The second piece, centers around yet another fictional technology, this time wiping one of sad memories. A couple that meets just before they are to undergo the operation in order to remove unpleasant relationship memories. flees the operating room, and decides to instead peruse each other, only to discover themselves right back where they started. This play leans more into the comedy than the first one, showing us various points of their relationship that are quite charming, but get increasingly more worrisome as time goes on. The couple (Played by Naya James and Mike Ivers) had great chemistry and were a joy to watch on stage.

The final piece took place in a world where everyone was assigned a color based on their personality and they were to only ever wear or interact with that color and could only act like that color was supposed to react. The play centered around a woman who was assigned purple, applying to change to an orange and the tension that follows from that request. This was the strangest of the three plays but presented lots of interesting ideas about the roles we assign people in society and did so in a creative and fun way.

All of the pieces held their own as thought provoking, funny, and often frightening plays, yet when joined together by a sinister narrator and his expressionless minions, there’s a feeling of unease throughout the piece that is very reminiscent of Black Mirror. All linked together by this idea of “abdication”, or giving up in a public manor, the worlds of each play feel similar to our own, enough to where many of the scenarios almost seem plausible, but it’s off kilter just enough to make us uncomfortable, to make us think of what we would do if given these particular set of circumstances or this particular technology. Morality, identity, and memory are all put under the microscope.

The use of the narrator was wonderfully unsettling. Speaking directly to the audience and donning a suite and cane, he smiles his way through the whole ordeal. He charms you, invites you in with loud and enthusiastic snake-oil salesman speak and song and dance. You’re enjoying the ride so much that you almost gloss over what he’s actually saying. “Just give up. It’s ok.” Once you do, the contrast becomes chilling. This contrast is further emphasized by his henchmen, two hulking men who show no emotion and hilariously frown their way through each dance sequence. However, when they’re not dancing and simply framing the Narrator and his tricky speech, the sinister undertones of the scenes bleed through.

“Abdication” was different in all the right ways, right down to the use of a retro-looking T.V set to act as an “Alexa”-like voice, show full scenes on the screen, and even show credits as if from a movie to replace the curtain call, further emphasizing the otherworldliness of the piece. I very much enjoyed “Abdication” and look forward to seeing where it goes next.

“Abdication” was written by Naya James and directed by Lucia Bellini.

It features: Trenton Clark, Stephen Keyes, Topher Wallace, Alan Cordoba-Diaz, Sid Ross, Meredith Rust, Janet Donofrio, Amanda Cannon, Tony Scheer, Naya James, Mike Ivers, Cesar Lozada, and Erica Penn.

It featured lighting design by Maryam Sweirki.

Stage Managed by Charles Casano.

“Abdication” was performed at Theater for the New City (155 First Avenue, New York, NY 10003) as a part of their Dream Up Festival

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s