Trouble Town

The avant garde looks positively old fashioned in New Citys new play

Trouble In the City of Desire

New City Theater till June 26th

Remember experimental theater? What a fine old time we all had back in those days. Freedom from narrative! Freedom from the script! No censorship! They were heady times, let me tell you, when we all discovered the thrill of standing up in a crowded theater and yelling "Art!"

The only problem is, there wasnt a lot of agreement on what to say next. Which is a large part of the dilemma of Trouble in the City of Desire, a new play created by Ki Gottberg, Mary Ewald, John Kazanjian, and Elizabeth Kenny, with writerly assistance from avant garde icon Richard Foreman. Because while this piece is filled with a couple of truckloads of intriguing theatrical images and a lot of chatter, its message seems to be twofold: being a woman is hard, and being a mother is hard. Consider the media alerted.

Lucy (Mary Ewald) is a mother with a teenage daughter and an academic career, whos put upon by a demanding and brutish husband. Her daughter Franci (Elizabeth Kenny), having just discovered sex, is hurtling down the primrose path as fast as her aerobicized legs can carry her. An escape, of sorts, is offered by the mysterious BB (Ki Gottberg), a tutu-wearing mother goddess who offers Lucy passage to the mythical City of Desire. The City turns out to be something of a disappointment, and Lucy is only able to find a moment of tranquillity in the closing moments of the play when the Prodigal Franci, her arms bedecked with dangling syringes, returns for a quiet chat.

Given the pedigrees of the performers and Kazanjian, its no surprise that the various theater effects, from pendulums of swinging memorabilia to miked voice-overs, are finely choreographed. But what is a surprise is how old-fashioned all of this seems, in both its philosophical banalities and such theatrical eye-rollers as having the characters come across a copy of the play, then realize everything they say is already written down. One would have hoped that more had been learned from the last thirty years of theater experiments than whats on offer here.

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