Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Coney Island Avenue (NYTW)

Coney Island Avenue
SixDollarsInMyPocket Productions
August 11, 2009
Charles L. Mee (writer)
Anjali Vashi (director)

This review comes too late to encourage audiences to see Charles Mee's Coney Island Avenue, which closed last weekend. Too bad, because it was a pretty good production by an exuberant young company. It moved quickly, it was never boring, and it had that over-caffeinated, go-for-broke artistic sensibility that's best Off-Off-B'way in the thick heat of August.

To bring Brooklyn to life, director Anjali Vashi unpacked her toolbox of experimental devices: modern dance (popular, modern, and ballet), recorded and live music, backdrop projections, ambient noise, no fourth wall. She'd suggest the borough's bustle by placing intense conversations or focused speeches in front of scenes involving violent, mimed activities. She'd insert beats that lacked context, like a girl in a bikini hunting for her lost top or a dancer in googly antennae scuttling around like a cockroach. All she forgot was projected text, a la Brecht.

But to what end? Mee's script (available online) offered nothing specific to Brooklyn, except an obligatory quote or two from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. There was no plot or theme holding the montage structure together, no sense of setting or character. Most big cities have hipsters, immigrants, carnivals, and folk songs; just look one borough over. Vashi and her company of diverse actors, dancers, singers, and bodybuilders made the stage into a fun place, but it never felt like home.


Coney Island Avenue played at New York Theatre Workshop (83 East 4th Street), closing on August 16.

No comments: